The Sand Creek, Errol Flynn & Louis Kraft connection

Website & blogs © Louis Kraft 2013-2018

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


I thought that for the third time my next major blog would deal with race and racism in my life, as this has always been a major piece of my world and always will be.

Actually on other social media it had been advertised as the next blog
as an introduction to dealing with some of the explosive comments
that my blogs had garnered that were both hateful and
threatening. Those who responded, and almost as
a total group, uplifted me from the dark swirl
of what amounted to threats.

I have no intention of shortchanging my world but
at the moment I need time, … and want to keep focused on
Sand Creek and the Tragic End of a Lifeway.

I have a major announcement to make in regards to
Sand Creek and the Tragic End of a Lifeway
(It will appear at the end of this blog).

Who am I?

I’m a pirate, a duelist, an explorer, a frontiersman. More important I’m a person who has walked between race in my world and in past worlds that I never experienced but know intimately (the last half of the 16th century, the 1860s and 1880s, and the 1930s through the 1950s and into the 1970s).

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LK leaning against Ned Wynkoop’s restored home/U.S. Indian agency just outside the perimeter of Fort Larned in Kansas on 22sept2012. I represented Wynkoop that evening when the Santa Fe Trail Association inducted him into their Hall of Fame. Photo by Fort Larned NHS chief historian and my great friend George Elmore. (image © Louis Kraft 2012 & 2015)

My books all deal with the human experience (regardless if they are nonfiction or fiction). They deal with time and place while none of them are in the present. For the record, the only book I’ll ever write that deals with the here and now will be my memoir (and I had better be dead at least one day before it is published). Trust me that my research on this fact is on target and that there can be no room for deviation from what must happen before this book is published.

These are not dark words. Rather they are truths in our modern world. Most people who write about their lives (or have someone else write about their lives for them) steer clear of truth. The reason is probably twofold: 1) They don’t want to be sued for telling the truth, and 2) They do not want to present themselves as less than an exemplary person. Unfortunately fully ninety percent of the autobiographies or memoirs that I have read fall into this category. These books are glossed-over bores that quickly put me to sleep. This must be good for I certainly need to sleep, perchance to dream.

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Of course this book has an LK story. It was distributed to book sellers early in 1960. As said Flynn had seen the galleys but he did not live to see publication (he died on 14oct1959). … At the time of publication I was in elementary school, and I had a job—a paper route—that I worked seven days a week. When the book was published I purchased it. My mother was upset and asked where I got the book. “I bought it.” “The book store sold it to you?” she asked incredulously. “Yes.” My mother knew that Errol Flynn meant a lot to me, even at that early age. “Okay,” she said, “as long as you don’t tell anyone you have the book or what is inside it.” I readily agreed. … Flynn wrote a book that contained a lot of truth—(and to repeat myself) so much so that for the second printing a lot was removed as some people didn’t like what he had written about them. They couldn’t sue Flynn for telling the truth for he was dead, but they made their anger known. … Many people have since spread the word that a lot of the book was fiction (certainly in the early portion of the book; Tasmania and New Guinea, that a book I own but don’t totally agree with documented). … I have a lot to say about this. Mainly 1) Flynn changed names and facts to protect friends and himself (trust me, this is not strange in memoir); and 2) I write nonfiction (Custer, Gatewood, Geronimo, Wynkoop, and Flynn and that includes Olivia de Havilland as she plays a large role in my first book on Mr. Flynn). Guess what: All of these people never documented their past accurately. Why? I’ll tell you why—I can’t document my past accurately. Reason: My memory has changed; it has forgotten or it has evolved into a new view of my life over time (thus I keep boxes upon boxes of documentation for my memoir). … Ditto Custer, Gatewood, Geronimo, Wynkoop, Flynn, and de Havilland. And there is what I said above about Flynn: Protecting himself and friends. … If I have learned a major thing from Flynn’s memoir (and this is my favorite book of all time), it is that when my memoir is ready for publication that it must be published after I am dead for this will be the only way I’ll be able to tell the truth.

The one autobiography that I have read that has forever stayed front and center in my life is Errol Flynn’s My Wicked, Wicked Ways (G. P. Putnam’s Sons, 1959). Mr. Flynn had magnificent help from writer Earl Conrad, who spent prime time with him in Jamaica when the actor-writer had trouble completing his memoir. Of course, Flynn’s story raised eyebrows. Certain personages were misnamed. Read: To protect friends (or Flynn himself). Other people Flynn spoke too truthfully about. Read: You pick them (but you had better have a first edition of MWWW, for if not a lot of the swashbuckler’s truths vanished in subsequent printings). Although Flynn knew he was dying (something that he had known for quite some time) he didn’t know that he wouldn’t see the publication of his memoir (although he did see the final galleys and approved them), … and he knew what he could possibly face (and thusly ignored the last love of his life in the book; he simply dedicated the book “to a small companion”).

Relax, my life doesn’t come close to the life that Mr. Flynn lived and shared with the world. But that said I have stories to tell that will result in people pounding on my front door with knives, sabres, Colt revolvers, and other instruments of destruction. I’ve had knives at my throat, guns pointed at me, but perhaps the worst was a surprise package in a plain white envelope with bold red letters that proclaimed: SHAME! This was from an editor in software that I worked well with and liked, and the contents was long dark hair. You won’t believe what her voice evolved into on voice mail messages—It was unnerving and chilled me to the bone. Luckily she lived and worked on the East Coast and I lived in SoCal, for otherwise I would have spent my days with my back to a wall while holding a brace of Colts in my hands as I waited for the front door to be bashed open. Are these words extreme? You bet! Are they the truth? Yes. Can I write about this lady and not get sued? Now that is the million-dollar question! … Yes, Mr. Flynn changed names and altered some facts but believe me he did some of this to protect himself (and some of it may have been because his memory had faded, but trust me for he never forgot the name of his friend Hermann Erben).

We have a lot of homeless people in Los Angeles and some I know on a
first-name basis—but I don’t want to join their ranks

I do walk the streets, but not as a hunter seeking prey. No! Absolutely not. I walk to be able
to walk, I walk for exercise, I walk for my health, and I walk so that I can survive. During these times (almost daily) I’m wary of my surroundings. At the same time I’m open to a human connection, and some of these people are homeless. I enjoy meeting and knowing
them (while knowing that I can’t offer them much). There is a lady named Sandy who shaves her head (the royal Egyptians of Nefertiti’s time shaved all their hair for cleanliness). She has a bicycle, is friendly, and we have talked on numerous occasions. I always carry a phone but
I have never asked if I could take her picture (and I have never taken a photo of a homeless
person, for they have a right to their privacy). This said she is a delight to know and I pray
God every day that soon the tax leveled on Los Angeles home owners in the 8nov2016 election and which goes into effect today (1jan2017) will build housing for these unfortunate
people (and not end up in politicians’ pockets).

What the hell?

… and how do I illustrate this section?

Perhaps I can use the artwork that I created of the Los Angeles 405 freeway
for my upcoming blog on race, as it is a nightmare. … Don’t think so.

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Cheyenne Dog Man Chief Bull Bear (left) and Cheyenne Peace Chief Black Kettle. (art © Louis Kraft 2013)

Just this; we all have lives and all of my subjects (except for Olivia de Havilland and less than a handful of people that I love) have moved on to the next world. … I must treat their lives with the same respect and accuracy as I would Livvie (Ms. de Havilland), Pailin, and everyone else in my life. I can’t treat them with anything less than the truth as my research defines it. Ladies and gents, this also includes my Sand Creek manuscript (Left Hand; John Chivington; John Evans; Charley Bent, BTW I think his brother George almost but not exclusively referred to him as “Charles”; Black Kettle; Bull Bear; George Bent; John Smith; Silas Soule; Ned Wynkoop; Little Raven; Scott Anthony; William Bent and everyone else I’m writing about.

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This 1980 book sold a lot of copies, and it is well-written. Unfortunately Higham wrote a lot that wasn’t true (and his major fictions have been debunked). Years later all some people know about Flynn is that he was a Nazi. Nothing printed about him has been farther from the truth. … Ah, the power of words!                                                             For the record, when I spoke with Olivia de Havilland about Higham’s biography about her and her sister, Joan Fontaine, all she shared with me was that Higham never contacted her and that he was “an unscrupulous man.”

Unfortunately you can defame the dead in the USA. In my opinion this is a massive crime and should be punished. It isn’t, but just because it isn’t writers and historians like me shouldn’t be able to have an open door and write untruths about people who can no longer defend themselves (and in many cases prove their innocence). … Anyone who writes about the past and calls someone a Nazi supporter or a rapist or a racist or child molester or a butcher of innocent people should be held accountable if he or she cannot provide proof for their statements. Writers who sell books and articles while destroying an historical person’s reputation should be called upon to prove what he or she has written or face a civil trial.

I can’t begin to tell you how many untruths I have seen in print (and unfortunately have heard verbally) about people that I write about and of which I know the facts from decades of study. Often I get pinged (and I’m being kind to me here) for taking so long to complete a manuscript. Put simply, I’m asked time and again why can’t I complete a 125,000-word or (in the case of Sand Creek) a 135,000-word manuscript in a year when writers for New York publishers can write a 400-500 page book in a year or two. You don’t want to hear this answer. … All I’ll say here is: Use your brain and think about it. My comments in the following paragraphs are a slam dunk reason why. You connect the dots.

I bought a book on George Armstrong Custer (2016) that won a major award, and immediately went to the index, and checked two pages that dealt with an historical figure that I know intimately. Guess what? Both pages had major errors (it’s on you to recognize them). The author cited a piss-poor so-called “autobiography” of Edward Wynkoop that was assembled by someone who’s research was horrendous (by the way, this “autobiography” was little more than an incomplete first rough draft that was less than half completed). For example, this compiler-editor’s research had Wynkoop resign his commission as U.S. Indian agent on November 27, 1868*, and had Custer attack Black Kettle’s Cheyenne village on the Washita River on November 29, 1868. If you know your history; enough said! … If not, reverse the dates. No! Not enough said, for it gets worse. The compiler-editor states that the great Peace Chief Black Kettle was born in 1841, became one of the four principle chiefs of the Cheyenne Council of Forty-four in 1853 (at twelve years of age?). … For the record I have written about Wynkoop and Black Kettle for decades, and these types of errors should never see print.

* The above-mentioned Custer book had Wynkoop resign as U.S. Indian agent prior to Custer’s attack on Black Kettle’s village.

fromcochise_togeronimo_bookcover2_wsAn Apache wars book that also saw print in 2016 listed (in my opinion) the best Apache wars book of all time, Edwin R. Sweeney’s From Cochise to Geronimo: The Chiricahua Apaches 1874-1886 (OU Press, 2010), in its bibliography. For the record, Sweeney’s book proved without a doubt that an Apache woman named Lozen was not with Geronimo and Naiche when they told Lt. Charles Gatewood that they would surrender and end the 1886 Apache war in Sonora, Mexico (August 1886). This book (and again I’m not naming it) totally ignores what Mr. Sweeney’s work proved for the simple reason that it didn’t agree with what the writer chose to push on a clueless public. As this book has sold a lot of copies it has yet again reintroduced a proven error as historical fact.

My friends, this type of supposed historical writing is little more than fiction perpetrated by authors who have preconceived premises that are set in stone and to hell with facts or truth. Is it lazy research? Maybe, and maybe no; at least I hope not. But it matters not, for they have set back real history by a number of decades.


I know, the above is something that I should shun and ignore.
I cannot! Two upcoming blogs will deal with Indian wars and Errol Flynn
errors, fictions, and lies, and everything will be totally documented.
But first my Sand Creek manuscript must be in production with OU Press.

Finally
Sand Creek and the Tragic End of a Lifeway
and the winding road to today

In case you don’t know, I never studied to become a writer. Simply put, and even though the late 1960s started this process, it was the decade of the 1970s that set me in motion to realize a future I never dreamed possible for it set me on course to walk my own road of decision and discovery. … If it wasn’t for the pure hell that I experienced while acting in Texas in 1976 I never would have become a writer. The events that I saw and lived through that summer placed an exclamation point on what I experienced in Austin (Texas) and Sapulpa and Oklahoma City (Oklahoma) in 1970. The year 1970 made me realize who I was while 1976 set me on course to become a writer. Both years put me at risk and yet pushed me to reach beyond anything I had yet imagined.

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LK the December after working for VISTA. (photo © Louis Kraft 1970)

Over the years a lot of people have been in my corner. They have done many things to help me survive in the real world. This certainly began with my father (who always had my back) but then took off in 1970 when Cheetah Gates, my Volunteers in Service to America (VISTA) supervisor, told me that if I wanted to live I had better ditch the cowboy boots. I did. He then taught me how to survive while walking the streets of Oklahoma City at night (and this was after I had saved myself from having my throat slit in the wee hours of an Austin morn). It was during that long muggy summer where I found myself dead center in a racist storm. Oh, I should state that I was living and working with African Americans.

Six years later I again maneuvered through a Texas hotbed of racism and other nasty things. Richard Steele-Reed had cast me in What Did We Do Wrong and he almost had a heart attack when I threatened to quit when my salary was reduced after the seven days of rehearsals ended and the play opened.

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LK as Charlie, a struggling actor, in Eat Your Heart Out (Hayloft Dinner Theatre, Lubbock, Texas). I was on stage throughout the entire play. The Lubbock theater was in the round (the audience was on all four sides of the stage), and I have always loved performing this way. I also love breaking the fourth wall and speaking to the audience (which I again did with Cheyenne Blood and the Wynkoop plays in this century). (photo © Louis Kraft 1976)

Steele-Reed insisted that I behave (I said that I would as long as I received all my contracted salary for the run of the current play and that the next play included a hefty raise). He directed me in the following  play, Eat Your Heart Out. The part of Charlie would be the best role that I ever played (actually twice; also in SoCal in 1977). But the key to that summer was that it led me to write a screenplay about this experience, and it landed my first literary agent, Ed Mernerth. Over eight years he not only taught me how to write character, dialog, and plot but did everything possible to sell and option my screenplays.

But the times were changing. By the mind 1980s I quit acting cold turkey and started selling freelance articles and talks. The learning process continued, but from this time forward it was on me. In 1986 I landed my first job using a computer without ever touching one. There was one catch, I had one week to learn how to use a computer. I did, and within a year I brought desktop publishing into the company. This landed me a publishing position with a “how to succeed in business” company. I then used this publishing experience combined with my freelance writing to land a technical writing job in 1990. When I asked the manager for training, he laughed and said: “I hired you as a technical writer; you’re on your own pal.” Soon after Jackie Johnson, a New York editor, bought my first novel, and for the next 20 or so years I combined freelance and software writing (and let me tell you that the days and nights and weeks were long).

Enter Chuck Rankin

Charles (Chuck) Rankin has been the editor-in-chief at the University of Oklahoma Press (OU Press), the top Indian wars publisher in the world, for many years. Chuck befriended me years back and did what he could to improve my writing. This was during the time after I walked away from an absurd second Charles Gatewood/Apaches book contract with the University of New Mexico Press but before the University of Nebraska Press turned Lt. Charles Gatewood & His Apache Wars Memoir into my best selling book to date. During this time of short-lived uncertainty before Nebraska jumped on the Gatewood manuscript, Chuck and I began a long off-and-on discussion about Ned Wynkoop and his journey from being a racist to someone who became a hated white man when he dared to stand up for Indians (and in particular the Cheyennes and Arapahos).

Mr. Rankin & the OU Press staff

The following reviews (see below) would not have happened if not for Chuck Rankin’s patience and guidance.

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LK at the Western History Association convention in Newport Beach, California, on 17oct2014. On this day I introduced Pailin to Chuck Rankin, and spent good time great friends John Monnett and Durwood Ball (who, as then editor-in-chief at the University of New Mexico Press, jumped on Gatewood & Geronimo as soon as he read the manuscript in 1999), and Clark Whitehorn (currently executive editor at the University of New Mexico Press). (photo © Louis Kraft & Pailin Subanna-Kraft 2014)

For years Chuck hung close with me as we worked on the Wynkoop contract. After it was signed he stood firmly behind the manuscript. During this time he did everything possible to make the book as good as possible. Without Chuck and the entire OU Press staff, and this certainly includes production manager Steven Baker and copyeditor Beth Hadas, I’d probably still be wandering alone through a blazing SoCal desert without the possibility of publication. … For the record (and I touched upon this in my previous Sand Creek blog, John Smith, Chief Gordon Yellowman, and the Sand Creek Massacre) I am demanding. Chuck and the entire OU Press production staff, and this definitely included the art director (I think he has left and I’m kicking myself as I can’t remember his name), dealt with me without revolting and insisting that I walk a pirates’ plank and drop into the shark-infested sea off the coast of Los Angeles. Without OU Press’s entire staff Ned Wynkoop and the Lonely Road from Sand Creek would not have been what it became. I am forever grateful to everyone involved.

A few Ned Wynkoop reviews

Editor Greg Lalire (Wild West, April 2012): “Kraft . . . has produced the first full biography of an unusual fellow whose humanitarian stance toward Indians, empathy and ‘brave act of conscience’ made him, in the eyes of many, a villain or a traitor. … Certainly Wynkoop’s stance against the Sand Creek attack not only changed his life forever but also defines how he is remembered today. He had stepped beyond the accepted mores of the day and kept speaking his mind. Kraft compares Wynkoop to screen legend Errol Flynn, but Wynkoop’s life did not play out according to a Hollywood script. ‘Of course,’ writes Kraft, ‘Flynn’s humanity and his stand for justice always won out by the final reel of the film, whereas Wynkoop walked away from the pinnacle of this life knowing that he had failed.’”

Novelist and Editor Johnny Boggs (Roundup, April 2012): “Before he earned fame (or infamy among Indian-hating people in Colorado and Kansas) for speaking out against John Chivington’s massacre of Cheyennes at Sand Creek, Wynkoop led a colorful life … What’s the best way to fix the ‘Indian problem?’ Wynkoop was asked in 1868. ‘[T]o extend American citizenship to the Indians, and allow their representatives seats in Congress,’ he answered. No wonder he carried a gun [Boggs proclaimed]. This engaging, intelligent and well-researched biography is also even-handed, showing the dark side of an early champion of Indian rights. One of the best biographies of a Western figure to come out in years.”

Historian R. Eli Paul (writing for True West, December 2011): “Louis Kraft’s special skill as a biographer is taking a figure from Western history—one whom the general public should know but does not—and telling the story of a meaningful, significant life. He did this expertly with Lt. Charles Gatewood of the Apache wars and now has repeated the feat with frontiersman Edward Wynkoop. In an American history that trumpets great ‘last stands,’ Wynkoop spoke out against the mistreatment of the Plains Indians and made his own stand of conscience, one to be studied, remembered and admired.”

Historian and novelist Thomas McNulty (writing for Dispatches from the Last Outlaw): “This is the third of Louis Kraft’s books that I have enjoyed, and I believe this book is a masterpiece. I am selective in my non-fiction reading choices, and for good reason. There is so much available that is unreadable, if not incomprehensible, and from all of the New York publishers. History sells, and it has always outsold fiction ten to one. This is a historical fact. But the market is glutted with unreadable biographies. What really matters is a love for the topic. That, my friends, is a rarity among historians and biographers these days. Louis Kraft does not fall into that category. He cares very much about Ned Wynkoop, and his passion for his subject is evident on every page. … Although I have studied American western history at leisure, I had only a smidgen of knowledge about Ned Wynkoop. Thanks to Mr. Kraft, I am now enlightened, and immediately grateful. Wynkoop is fascinating, his story compelling, his era unlike anything we had seen before or since.”

Working as a biographer to create the Sand Creek manuscript

I have no clue what your current views are of what will perhaps be the most important book that I ever write, Sand Creek and the Tragic End of a Lifeway. … I am deeply connected with my book projects and the focus is always on people and their actions. This does not mean that I research or write with a preconceived bias for I don’t. As I have written in the past: I think that just about everyone I know, have known, or have written about think that they were right when they did what they did. This view will never change.

Louis Kraft coming in from the light. Photo by Glen Williams (Image © Williams & Kraft 2012)

This image shows what I’m trying to say here. Mainly that until I have found what I need to propel the story of Sand Creek to conclusion it is a lonely path as I struggle to find and assemble the actions and facts that will allow me to complete the manuscript. Photo by Glen Williams. (image © Louis Kraft & Glen Williams 2012)

Our actions define us, and actions can and at times do include what we say. Documenting only the good in a person’s life makes them one-dimensional and unrealistic. Everyone does things that they later regret. Certainly I have. I know that I’ve hurt people, and I have been hurt by people. This doesn’t make me bad or them bad. It simply means that something happened. It adds dimension to a life and gives it color. Without color—that is the ups and downs, the good and the bad—a life becomes boring. Making a life worth knowing (and perhaps studying) requires multiple shades of color.

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This photo by Glen Williams also deals with the search for a nugget that can perhaps become a piece of the puzzle. (image © Louis Kraft & Glen Williams 2012)

Do not doubt that the 1860s were a time of aggression and war, a time of hatred and butchery, and a time of fear. The Sand Creek manuscript is about people whose color, race, and religions were different. It is about people in conflict as they deal with the events that led up to an attack on a Cheyenne-Arapaho village populated by people that thought the U.S. military promised their safety until the U.S. government decided their future. It is also about the attack and the aftermath.  If I do my job as a writer-historian you will walk with the leading players as they did what they thought right. What happened on November 29, 1864, affected a lot of people at that time, it has affected a lot of people since 1864, and it has affected me for decades. A writer-historian should never judge the people he or she writes about for this is for the reader to decide.

Chuck Rankin and a major announcement

I want to say something and I also want to make it absolutely clear by repeating myself. Chuck Rankin became my friend long before I ever became attached to the University of Oklahoma Press. Back in time when I wrote for publishers other than OU Press he didn’t shun me. No. Instead he talked with me, shared information with me, befriended me. He did what he could to aid my second Gatewood/Apache book see publication even though it would not be with OU Press. His kindness went far beyond friendship.

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This is Chuck Rankin, my good friend and great editor. All I can say here is that without Chuck my writing life and world would have suffered. I’m lucky to know him and look forward to our relationship as it moves into our future. (art © Louis Kraft 2016)

Our working relationship began in the early part of this century and over time led to the Ned Wynkoop and then the Sand Creek contracts. Chuck has supported my work and effort every step of the way.

But … BUT …

Years pass and life changes. Several months ago Chuck Rankin retired as editor-in-chief at OU Press (effective 31dec2016).

When I heard the news I was shocked and concerned, as he has been the driving force behind my Sand Creek manuscript. This began years back when he pitched me to write the book about the 1864 attack on the Sand Creek village. I had said no, that I don’t write about battles. Chuck immediately made it clear that the book would not focus on the battle; rather it should focus on the lead-up to the attack, the attack, and the aftermath. I hesitated, thinking that this wasn’t a project for me. … Our conversation continued, and a year passed. FinalIy I pushed for writing a manuscript driven by peoples’ actions. Eventually Chuck and I agreed on a storyline. Next came the written proposal and this in itself was a project (the final draft was 37 pages long) but it defined what I needed to do to create a manuscript that had value. …

When I spoke to Chuck about his retirement he let me know that he had worked out a deal with the press that would allow him to continue working with selected projects. Best, he made it clear that he was behind Sand Creek and the Tragic End of a Lifeway one hundred percent and would see it through to completion.

I can’t begin to tell you how thrilled I am. Thank you Chuck from the bottom of my heart.

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

Website & blogs © Louis Kraft 2013-2018

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


 

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

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

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

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

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

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

I never wrote
that book.

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

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


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

Sand Creek is a story of people

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

A short detour

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(book cover art © Louis Kraft 2016)

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

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

Sand Creek hasn’t been easy

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

Word-smithing comes later—much later.

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

Dr. Gary Roberts and the beginning of a friendship

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

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

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

Buddying up to John Simpson Smith

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

But first a little of LK and my lady

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Finally to Mr. Smith

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A possible dust jacket

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

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

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

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

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

What do I currently have? Nada (Nothing).

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Finally a dark side that we cannot ignore

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

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

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

Website & blogs © Louis Kraft 2013-2018

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.

**********

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.

**********

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.

**********

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.

Errol Flynn & Louis Kraft; the connection and a view

Website & blogs © Louis Kraft 2013-2018

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

Click on an image to expand it


For starters I should state that film has played an important role my life.

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Errol Flynn as Don Juan in the final duel in Adventures of Don Juan (1948). In my opinion Flynn’s sword fight to the death with Robert Douglas as the Duke de Lorca is by far the best duel captured on film. I’ve heard the criticism, such as all the takes had to be short as Flynn was out of breath. You know what? That criticism isn’t valid, for all that counts is what we see in the film. (art © Louis Kraft 2014)

The actor Errol Flynn influenced my life in many ways and for an assortment of reasons. Looking back the most important reason was that he has been the most un-racial person that I have ever studied. In this blog I’m going to talk about my discovery of Flynn and his influence on me while discussing some of his performances on film (and this will include a few comments that will surprise and perhaps shock).

Know that my views don’t jive with popular opinions that have
been oft-repeated by writers and the media that do little original thinking
and buy into what is over and over again stuffed down their throats.

My opinion of reviews and reviewers is not sparkling

Reviews are opinions; some are based on bias while others are based upon sales or what the media has proclaimed and stuffed down our throats. … Also know that many reviewers base their opinions on what they saw on film or read in a book or viewed on a canvas (these reviewers should be praised and not considered brethren to cretins that have an agenda).

Film acting is a lot different than acting on stage. AND it must be natural, and let me tell you that sometimes this is very difficult to do—especially when you’ve got 35, 40, 70 people staring at you and you are now into your tenth closeup take for a scene and the producer is on set bitching about being over budget and screaming at the director why the idiot actor—you—can’t play the scene right.

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A publicity shot of Tim Matheson and Catherine Hicks from the short-lived TV show, Tucker’s Witch. (LK personal collection)

I saw this happen while working on Tucker’s Witch (1982-1983), which I thought was a decent show if it had had a chance to succeed. Already it had been canceled in its first season but the contract stated 12 episodes and we were then shooting episode number 11 or 12. The actor was a TV star with some film hits, charming, natural, and competent but now a producer had pulled the rug out from under him. The actor struggled, and bless him for he kept his composure as much as possible in a situation that should have never happened as he fought to perform as demanded by someone who should have kept his mouth shut and who should have allowed the actor and director do their jobs.

What the hell! Money is privilege and it rules.

As are reviews, valid or not. Believe me, they can make one feel good and they can also make one feel like slime that should be flushed down the toilet.

Money can “win” elections, or should I say “buy” elections? Reviews do more—much more—to individuals as they can hurt and destroy or build up and create. For the record reviews are sometimes biased. By that I mean that they can fry a performer (let’s say Richard Gere) or praise a performer (let’s say Bruce Springsteen) over and over again. When this happens it is based upon the reviewer’s bias. Here I’m talking about a Los Angeles Times film critic that eventually became the Times music critic. He’s not with us anymore. Ain’t that a shame.

The early days & a Tex Ritter influence

Film and I joined hands back when I was somewhere around four or five years old, and this time dates all the way back to Yonkers, New York. I lived with my father, mother, and infant sister in a wooden house that my mother had grown up in (my father and mother had bought it from her parents). Yonkers—at least where we lived—was in the hills and not far from the Hudson River.

LK&TexRitter_1950&1961_collage_wsWe had a small TV in a large wooden cabinet and the screen was green. I was often glued to Tex Ritter one-hour B-westerns that played all the time (as well as Buck Jones, who I liked; Wild Bill Elliott; Johnny Mack Brown; Gene Autry; Roy Rogers; and many others). Tex was a singing cowboy (as was Jimmy Wakely, Autry, Rogers, and others including John Wayne who made no impact on me for I don’t have any memories of him). Tex rode a white horse (White Flash) and caught bad guys (Autry and Rogers also did this, but often cars were in their films and I found that phony). I guess that it also helped that I liked Tex’s singing (Rogers’ songs were nondescript and Autry’s singing did absolutely nothing for me).

Before long my family migrated to California in a 1950 Hudson Commodore that my father had bought new in ’50. It pulled a 35-foot trailer. My father and mother loved the road and took every opportunity to explore the USA. This trip was no different than earlier trips that they had taken across the United States. It was my second to California for in 1949 my father, mother, and I visited it in a red 1949 Chevrolet convertible. I guess that the Chevy under performed as my father sold it in 1950 to buy the Hudson. He never owned another General Motors vehicle.

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I have a great photo of the Hudson and trailer in the background with my mother, dinky sister, and small me during the exodus to California (but I can’t find it). … Thus this collage. The Hornet is on a rural road in Northridge, California, in 1974. This area is now wall-to-wall houses (a shame). The Camaro is at the beach in northern San Diego.

When I bought a new Camaro in 1998 my father told me that I’d regret it; I didn’t and the car averaged 24,000 miles per year until I sold it to buy a Vette in 2007. My father, who had been fragile since 1996 or 1997, refused to ride in the Camaro and didn’t live to see the first Vette (if I had been able to get him into the Vette I’m certain that he would have loved it for he liked cars that gripped the road and went fast). … I can’t remember the 1949 trip, but the 1954 trip took perhaps 60 days (there were no freeways, but we weren’t burnin’ rubber as we zig-zagged across the USA). In California we moved around hooking up the trailer in backyards with horses and goats and pigs and chickens and sometimes cattle in the very rural San Fernando Valley (most of which is in the city of Los Angeles and all of it is in the county of Los Angeles) before we settled in a trailer park in Van Nuys.

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Tex Ritter on White Flash. This image represents the first job description I ever had, that is I wanted to ride a white horse and shoot bad guys like Tex did. (LK personal collection)

About this time my mother asked me what I wanted to do when I grew up. I told her that I wanted to ride a white horse like Tex and shoot bad guys. She shook her head. “Tex is an actor. The bad men he shoots don’t die for they are actors too.” It was at that moment I decided that I wanted to be an actor.

During my early years I attended at least eight elementary schools, and perhaps more (the only two grades wherein I spent two years in the same school were the fifth and sixth grades). Sometime, probably in the fifth grade, I saw my first Errol Flynn film.

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I believe that this is the 1948 German one-sheet for Flynn’s 1940 film The Sea Hawk.

It was the 1940 Warner Bros. production of The Sea Hawk. I had already become a gunslinger (actually this had begun in Yonkers). There’s film of this, but my sister took it after our father died. After she died her husband dumped truckloads of stuff in my backyard but the old films from the New York years were not included. I guess that they hit the trashcan as he decided to start his life over and jettison his past. By now I was good with my cap guns. The pirate Flynn added swords to my repertoire (The Sea Hawk would add much more to my life, but that would be decades in the future).

Junior high school gave me three things: Better sports competition (although Dennis Kreiger, who would again meet up with me in high school and then our early college years was the perfect adversary in the fifth and sixth grades), acting classes with performances on stage, and best of all learning to duel with Ralph Faulkner. Faulkner had become the amateur world sabre champion in 1928 and competed as a member the U.S. Olympic fencing squad in 1932. Although he had come to Hollywood to become an actor (and he had silent film credits) his legacy was his long career in film as a stunt double and choreographer of film duels, which had directly led to him opening a fencing academy on Hollywood Boulevard in Hollywood, California. I actually took a third place in a foil competition at his studio while in junior high school, and I competed against adults.

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This art is based upon a 1974 photo. (art © Louis Kraft 2015)

There were no swords in high school, but in college I took fencing in my first year. I became a favorite of Muriel Bower, the coach, and she asked if I wanted to join the fencing team. I said that I would but only if I fought sabre. She agreed and I trained. … But we didn’t see eye-to-eye. You see I was a theater major, and this made my normal school day 7:00 AM until 10:30 PM or later during the week and often this included performances on weekends (backstage and when lucky on stage). This problem would haunt me over my professional life in the entertainment industry when I needed a job to earn extra cash. …. If it had been real life instead of a major 1966 multi-university competition at UCLA in which in real life I could have killed Bobby Crawford (Johnny Crawford’s brother; Johnny was famous for his part as The Rifleman’s son on TV and as the singer of decent pop tunes at the time such as “Cindy’s Birthday” and “Rumors”). I was still learning sabre and I only fought sabre in the competition. I held my own but I didn’t win. There is a running sabre move wherein the attacking duelist runs by his opponent and slashes at his shoulder or head as he passes. I hadn’t learned how to parry it yet (actually Bowers hadn’t even discussed this move with me). In an earlier duel that day an opponent scored a hit when I failed to parry (block) the attack. In my duel with Bobby Crawford, who at that time was one of the best sabre duelists in SoCal, when he began to charge with the cut that I didn’t know how to parry I dropped down to one knee as his sabre was raised to strike. As he launched his slashing attack I thrust with all my might and struck him in the chest. The impact was so great that it bent my sabre blade into an “S-shape.” The contact was forceful and he stumbled backwards four or five feet while his blade nicked me on my thrusting arm. Point Crawford as I hadn’t parried his attack. I was up in an instant and rushed to Crawford to ask if he was all right. He said that he was. He wasn’t, and this I knew for his chest would turn black and blue and he would feel the hit for some time. Hell, my sabre blade was in an “S” shape from the impact and totally unusable. If this had been a real-life sword fight Mr. Crawford would have died on that day.

College gave me actor Jeff Corey and actor-director Robert Ellenstein. They set in motion my quest to eventually earn money as an actor (see below).

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Errol Flynn’s great film, The Sea Hawk (1940), took its title from Rafael Sabatini’s magnificent novel of the same name, which Warner Bros. owned the film rights. But that’s all it took. You see, Sabatini’s novel dealt with an Englishman sold into slavery in Tunis who rises to become a famed Barbary pirate that preys upon English vessels. Sabatini’s story was loosely based upon an Englishman and seaman named John Ward, who was starving at the beginning of the 17th century, and who moved to Tunis and became a pirate lord (the famed Captain John Smith of Virginia fame was the last Englishman to spend time with Ward). … This image is of Flynn as Captain Geoffrey Thorpe, a pirate (BTW the term “privateer” didn’t come into existence until about 1640) who sailed with the blessing of Good Queen Bess (Elizabeth I of England). The other image is my favorite romanticized painting of Sir Francis Drake (I have talked about the Drake connection to The Sea Hawk elsewhere).

Bob Ellenstein would play a major part in my world for five or six years after I graduated college. At times it seemed as if I lived at his house on the Westside of Los Angeles. I studied acting with him and he played perhaps the most important player in my life at that time. We did a lot together, including my introduction to an acting vogue at that time called psycho drama, which probed into an actor’s inner being. Coffee, breakfasts, and lunches at Bob’s home, plus talks, lots of talks, which, believe it not, included the pirate Francis Drake who to this day plays a major role in my research (often I leave him off my upcoming book lists but you should know that he is forever present with me).

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Three images of LK with a blade at different times. I’ve recently discovered other images with swords but they will take time to restore (if ever I decide to spend the time).

Years later I would study stage combat or “swashbuckling” from two people who approached this from different perspectives. This training would lead to me choreographing duels and dueling on stage.

Yes, Errol Flynn impacted my life (but much–much more than you can guess from the above).

Flynn was a natural actor when stage acting ruled film. Most of the so-called “great” actors over-acted and chewed up scenery. Many of these performances simply do not hold up. When viewing film from a time long gone one must consider the life and times of the film industry (just like one must consider the racial and social mores when studying the Indian wars). More important, one must consider and accept (and this is key) the technical world in which films from another era were created.

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Believe it or not, Flynn’s Escape Me Never (1947) is an outsider film that has the largest chance of making it into the LK top 10 Flynn film list. If this is true it means that the 1930s mega successes for Flynn (Captain Blood, 1935; The Charge of the Light Brigade, 1936; and The Adventures of Robin Hood, 1938) won’t make the list. I know, pure heresy, but with my top 10 Flynn films I’m talking about Mr. Flynn’s performances (and not big bucks). I’ll spend a little more time with Flynn’s Escape Me Never below. Here Flynn is with Eleanor Parker and Gig Young. (LK personal collection)

All this said, good acting survives time (and bad acting doesn’t). In Errol Flynn’s case other life ingredients would play havoc with his life, and because of this his life was extraordinary and worthy of study. Unfortunately long after Flynn’s death writers have written words that cannot be validated because they are out and out lies and this has continued into the twenty-first century. Unscrupulous historians who are little more than mud-slingers that create quotes, print facts that never happened, and often use notes that can never be confirmed because the cited documentation cannot be found. On this last sometimes obscure documentation is used and then totally falsified in the belief that readers won’t have it and if not they won’t make any attempt to find it. … There’s always a “YIKES” to this type of history writing for every so often another historian has the cited and oh-so obscure documentation.

Bullshit is bullshit and lies are lies and fiction is fiction and none of them are valid when writing biography.

Damn, that’s a good lead-in to an Errol Flynn blog. Unfortunately my dear friends it ain’t the lead-in to this blog for the following words won’t be accusatory. Actually all I want to do is mention my list of 10 Errol Flynn films and three of them are in the scope of Errol & Olivia, as well to wander in and around a smidgen of Errol Flynn’s reality and touch base with a few of his films.

eoImage_whiteAboveJust so you know Errol & Olivia deals with their life and times and will include all eight films that they played in together as well as selected other films between 1935 and 1941. The book will be a dual-biography and the word count will be 135,000. It will be a biography like none other that I have written in the past and although I have two additional books planned on Flynn they will not be like Errol & Olivia.

For the record, and I think that those of you that have an interest in Mr. Flynn or Ms. de Havilland, the following is of great importance. I have a novel that will be published in 2016 (The Discovery) and my work on it is almost complete. I do write about the American Indian wars (my interest is in people that risk their lives to step beyond racial prejudice and attempt to prevent or end war). Sand Creek and the Tragic End of a Lifeway might be the most important book that I ever write. After the Sand Creek manuscript goes into production Errol & Olivia will become my major project until published.

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LK art of Ned Wynkoop as he sees the Cheyenne and Arapaho battle line in September 1864. He and his small command faced death but he later that day, with words, convinced the Indians in council that they should secure peace. This rendering of Wynkoop first saw print in the August 2014 Wild West magazine. It may be used in Sand Creek and the Tragic End of a Lifeway. (art © Louis Kraft 2013)

Every person that I write about in biography form was unique and dared to challenge his (or in Ms. de Havilland’s case, her) world. Errol Flynn was unique and he challenged his world again and again. Just like the Indian wars people that I write about, Errol Flynn had ups and downs and because of this he found himself under attack time and again. Like Ned Wynkoop & Black Kettle and Charles Gatewood & Geronimo from the Indian wars, Errol Flynn fought to survive in his world. All of them, including Flynn, stood out, and people from their times and thereafter did whatever was necessary to bury them. There are connecting links, and in Ned Wynkoop and the Lonely Road from Sand Creek I connected Wynkoop to Flynn. And it wasn’t that big of a stretch, and I didn’t need to use the race card. Wynkoop changed from a man who thought that Indians were close to animals. Events in his life changed this view and he dared to fight the press, the military, and the U.S. government to secure a fair deal for the Cheyennes and Arapahos. …

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This photo of Flynn dates to 1940-1941, and it is my favorite of him. That said, he probably hated it, for his physical image again and again garnered him less than satisfactory reviews, reviews that either stated he was a “pretty” boy and nothing else or hinted at this. He cared about his work and these criticisms hurt him immensely. (LK personal collection)

Flynn didn’t do this. But just look at his life: He wasn’t in the military and didn’t have to deal with the brutal murders and sexual mutilation of human beings. Why? Simple, for Errol Flynn people were people. As his eldest daughter once said: “He didn’t care what race you were. If he liked you he liked you.” Errol Flynn was the most un-racial person I have known or studied.

Alas, this blog is going to move away from man’s inhumanity to man, away from heinous crime (and I’m talking about the Indian wars here), and simply talk about Errol Flynn the actor.

LK’s top ten Errol Flynn films

(top four/alphabetical and firm)

1.   Adventures of Don Juan (1948)

2.   Gentleman Jim (1942)

3.   The Sea Hawk (1940)

4.   They Died With Their Boots On (1941)

(bottom six/alphabetical and not firm)

5.   Dodge City (1939)

6.   Four’s a Crowd (1938)

7.   Objective Burma (1945)

8.   The Dawn Patrol (1938)

9.   Uncertain Glory (1944)

10. Virginia City (1940)

I won’t be discussing the films on the list or this blog would turn into a book. That said, I will mention a few of the above titles. I’ll also spend a little time with Captain Blood; The Adventures of Robin Hood; Escape Me Never; Crossed Swords; and Too Much, Too Soon; among others.

Not to worry for what I say here won’t give away Errol & Olivia for there is only enough space to deal with a few points—important points—but if they make it into Errol & Olivia they will be expanded upon in directions that you won’t be able to guess from what you read in this blog.

Alas, I won’t be discussing any of the films in detail here.
However, I will in the upcoming Flynn books.

Well-constructed words can always hide bias

As stated above I’m not big on reviews of anything, and even though I just presented you with a list I hate lists. They mean absolutely nothing. I can’t tell you how often I’ve seen lists that have been printed and much of the time I run to the bathroom to vomit (Robert Florczak I’m not talking about you, for your lists are well-thought-out and valid). Most of them are regurgitated baloney or worse. Often I see the same titles again and again. Did the person who created the list put any effort into creating their list? Or did they simply peruse lists that they had previously seen?

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The perfect example of a film that I cannot stomach is Gone with the Wind (1939), a film that Olivia de Havilland risked her film life at Warner Bros. to obtain the role of Melanie after she was told that the studio wouldn’t allow her to work in the film. In this image you see Hattie McDaniel as Mammy (left), who deserved her best female supporting Oscar; OdeH as Melanie Hamilton; and Vivien Leigh as Scarlet O’Hara; who Clark Gable as Rhett Butler should have shot in the first reel of the film (of course then there wouldn’t have been a film). My view on this film: I hated it and was bored to tears, and even though I own it on DVD (mainly because I wanted the one-hour OdeH interview), I have yet to see this film to the end other than the first time I saw it in a movie theater about 1969. (LK personal collection)

Of course you know that it’s risky to pick a film that was a huge bust at the box office, and most people who create lists steer clear of films that don’t make a lot of money. Although this isn’t always the case, often best film lists stick with films that were block-busters, Oscar winners, or were so artsy-fartsy that I’ve never been able to get through a complete viewing of them. Read 10 minutes, or if I have time to burn, 15 minutes and click. Goodbye! The reason: I’m bored. The plot hasn’t caught my interest and the actors’ performances have scored a zero with me. If the film in question had been a stage performance I would have been screaming “Get the hook!”*

*This is a not-too-kind expression from times past that means slipping a hook that is attached to a pole around a performer’s neck and then yanking them offstage.

I’ve got to care about story and performances. If I don’t, viewing a film is a waste of my time, … and I don’t give a bleep about how great a critic with his thumb stuck somewhere claims the film is or how a certain performance is one for the ages. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen Oscar-winning performances in the past and I’ve suffered through the film as I’ve wasted good money to see it in a theater. … While talking about the Academy Awards and other major acting awards I hope you realize that millions upon millions of dollars are spent every year to buy these awards. The awards season that begins late in the year and climaxes with the Oscars in February of the following year has been for years (nay decades) a three-ring circus with often the largest pocketbooks bringing home the bulk of the awards. My view of these TV extravaganzas? A joke. The last time I watched part of one was when I was recovering from a surgery a number of years ago. A friend was staying with me, and about two plus hours before the conclusion (and I have no idea what actors or films danced home with the gold statures that they had purchased) we turned off the television and enjoyed a good Mexican meal at a local restaurant.

It’s too bad that pro football players, pro basketball players, and
major league baseball players can’t spend millions of dollars each year
to buy Most Valuable Player awards. Heck, they earn enough in
salary and endorsements. This seems like a no-brainer to me.

The swashbuckler

In the 1930s Errol Flynn became connected with Douglas Fairbanks, Sr., when writers began saying that he had donned the swashbuckling armor and boots and followed in the silent film legend’s footsteps. As it turned out Flynn would go on to make nine swashbuckling films. Four of those films would secure his legacy as the swashbuckler for all time. I hate to say this but since Flynn’s death in 1959 no actor has come close to challenging his mark on this genre of film. None.

(For a little more on Flynn and screen dueling see: Errol Flynn, swords, Ned Wynkoop, & of course Kraft opinion.)

I love this poster of The Adventures of Robin Hood (but I’ve got a poster I like even more framed and on a wall). This poster was created for a video release of the film and I couldn’t believe it when I was lucky enough to obtain a one-sheet of it locally. (LK personal collection)

There are valid reasons why Captain Blood and The Adventures of Robin Hood aren’t on my list of 10 Flynn films, but they are not for this blog. Both films are in the scope of Errol & Olivia and trust me I will spend a lot of time with both films, and a good portion of what I present will be positive. As with my Indian wars books I don’t whitewash the major person or people or their actions. Errol & Olivia will not only focus on Flynn and de Havilland and their life and times but also the eight films that they made together.

Four of Flynn’s swashbucklers are classics: Captain Blood (1935), The Adventures of Robin Hood (1938), The Sea Hawk (1940), and Adventures of Don Juan (1948). In the last three Flynn excelled in the dueling scenes. In one other film, The Prince and the Pauper (1937) Flynn’s duel with an evil captain of the guard (Alan Hale) who intended to kill the prince who was poised to be named king of England as his father (Henry VIII) had died near the end of the film is superb. It clearly demonstrated what was to come.

Unfortunately Flynn’s four swashbucklers in the 1950s don’t compare to his earlier efforts. The most popular reason that I’ve often seen is that Flynn had aged. He had, but he hadn’t lost his grace and skill, … simply his stamina and physical strength. What really impacted his dueling in these films: Against All Flags (1952), The Master of Ballantrae (1953), Crossed Swords (1954), and The Warriors (1955) were the lackluster staging (that is: choreography), film angles, and editing of the duels.

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I think that Against All Flags is at the absolute bottom of the nine swashbuckling Flynn films. Don’t doubt that it was a Universal production and meant low budget. One of the half sheets for the film is absolutely gorgeous. This Spanish one sheet is well-done and I like it. (LK personal collection)

The sword masters that created these duels and rehearsed them with the actors and stunt men couldn’t compare to the great master Fred Cravens (and his crew) that Flynn worked with in the 1930s and 1940s. I have a caveat here. Early in The Master of Ballantrae Flynn duels with his brother (Anthony Steel). This duel is fast-paced and well-done by everyone involved in front and behind the camera (and this includes the editors). By the time that Flynn shot The Warriors his dueling days had passed him by and he said as much in his magnificent memoir My Wicked, Wicked Ways (which is strange for he seemed capable enough in Crossed Swords). By the way, the British title for Flynn’s last swashbuckler, The Dark Avenger, was a much better title than The Warriors. I actually like this film much better than Against All Flags. Alas, Flynn’s duel in a tavern with a French captain (Christopher Lee) was mostly performed by a stunt double. Still the choreography was better than the slap-dash staged fights in Against All Flags, which had the look and feel of a B-film. The best thing about Against All Flags were the one-sheet and half-sheet advertising posters, which were quite good (as opposed to the American posters for The Warriors that did nothing to sell Flynn or the film).

Dancing between reality and a public image

In 1984 I worked on a miniseries called Robert Kennedy and His Times, shown on TV in 1985 (for a little background on it see an earlier blog: How race has affected my life & writing), with Errol’s Flynn’s first daughter, Deidre Flynn. At that time another miniseries was shooting called My Wicked, Wicked Ways: The Legend of Errol Flynn, which was supposedly based upon Flynn’s memoir (which is one of the best books that I have ever read) with Duncan Regehr as Flynn. He sounded like Ronald Coleman, looked nothing like Flynn, and worst of all had absolutely no charisma (he could have been playing Daffy Duck with an accent).

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LK connecting with Pat Wymore Flynn on June 6, 2006, when the Academy of Motion Pictures and Arts and Sciences honored Olivia de Havilland (Beverly Hills, California). Deidre Flynn is center in the image. (photo © Louis Kraft 2006)

The production company had asked Deidre to be an advisor for the Flynn miniseries. She had read the screenplay and gave them a resounding response of “No!” She had no clue that I knew a lot about her father (believe it or not my research of him began shortly before his death when I was in elementary school). That said, we talked slightly about her dad. She told me that the screenplay was a piece of crap and that she wanted nothing to do with the production. I saw the miniseries when it first aired (and once again a dozen or so years later), and it was a bleeping joke! And I am being kind here. Only two performances were decent—Barbara Hershey as Lili Damita and Hal Linden as Jack Warner (and I’ve never heard Warner’s voice). Everything and everyone else was terrible or worse. If Olivia de Havilland saw Lee Purcell attempt to play her I’m certain that Livvie would have made a couple of runs to the bathroom to vomit. I was embarrassed for her and at that time I never dreamed that sometime in the future I would spend prime time with her. … Enough of talking about a miniseries that should have never been produced.

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The cover of Higham’s piece of Errol Flynn fiction says it all on the book’s dust jacket.

A few years before the Flynn miniseries aired Charles Higham saw the publication of Errol Flynn: The Untold Story (Doubleday & Company, 1980). I bought it, as I have every book on Flynn that I can get my hands on, and read it. With notations that were so vague they were immediately suspect, Higham would have us believe that Mr. Flynn was both a bisexual and a Nazi spy. The fictional rantings should have been ridiculed; instead they were accepted by the media (which always jumps onto anything that might defame a human being). Oh, and I should mention this: You cannot defame the dead in the United States (at least you couldn’t in the 1980s). Not so in Canada, where the book was also published. If I remember what Deidre told me correctly, she and her sister filed a complaint about Charles Higham in Canada. I don’t believe that he ever dared to reenter Canada again. … Mr. Higham has since moved on to wherever people who fictionalize and distort history go, and I do hope that the flames are sizzling. His travesty of a book single-handedly destroyed Flynn’s reputation and for so doing awarded him massive book sales. Olivia de Havilland called Higham “despicable.” Believe it or not there are other Flynn writers and more than a handful of Western historians that think that there is nothing wrong with what Higham did—rewrite history at the cost of truth and reality. These cretins cite primary source material that is often so obscure that they are certain that no one can find the cited works even if they looked. Guess what: I have research material in every room of my house except for a bathroom and the dining room. Some of these cretins (I should use stronger words here, but I’m trying to keep a civil tongue) cite real documentation (thinking that no one has it or will look for it) with quotations that don’t exist except in their books of lies. When they don’t do this, they misinterpret what the primary source material states (again, always obscure and hard to obtain material). Their thinking here is that they have cited authentic documentation and it is beyond challenging. … In a word: BULLSHIT!

I’m sorry about the repetition of the above, but this is important.
Facts must always be questioned and confirmed. Alas, this
is so important that I return to it below.

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Susan Goulet art of a famed EF publicity photo (© Susan Goulet 2004). I’m not sure if she has the color of his eyes correct. She had created a wonderful portrait of OdeH and I had given Olivia a print of it in 2004 (I kept the original art). She loved it. This image is a copy of the original art in the LK personal collection.

I do know one thing: Mr. Flynn worked hard at being an actor, took an interest during pre-production and production although at times after the farce of a rape trial in 1943 he decided to give the public what they expected of him. This turned out to be a two-headed dragon for not only did he present himself as the lecher that the Los Angeles criminal justice system attempted to paint him as (read: behind closed doors political shenanigans then in vogue) but also that it marked the beginning of a huge downward life spiral that he mistakenly thought he could reverse whenever he wanted.

He couldn’t.

I’m not going to talk about what I see as the real Errol Flynn in this blog (this I’ll save for Errol & Olivia and the two follow-up books on EF). All I’ll say here is that the general population’s view of him as a man, a human being, a father, and as an actor and writer is incorrect.

Over the years Errol Flynn saw his Warner Bros. salary and say in his films grow. By the mid-1940s he had worked into his contracts that he could choose some of his films (his Thompson Productions produced three films) and as his phallic image grew (to his disgust) so did his efforts to break his heroic image. In doing this he easily demonstrated his acting range, but it cost him popularity at the box office.

Finally, and this is related to the above paragraph, Jack Warner would have never invested the amount of money he did over the years in Errol Flynn if he wasn’t sold on Flynn’s creative talents.

Views of a few of Flynn’s films

I’m just going to meander here as I talk about a handful of Errol Flynn’s films that are for the most part not considered among his great films.

Escape Me Never (1947)

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Ida Lupino and Errol Flynn work at hustling for money as they travel across the southern Alps in Escape Me Never. Their off-screen friendship gave their on-screen relationship an extra dimension. Over the years Ida would be one of Flynn’s greatest supporters. He was lucky to count her as a friend. (LK personal collection)

Flynn and his three co-stars (Ida Lupino, Eleanor Parker, and Gig Young) played off each other nicely. … Flynn and Young are composers in Italy. Gig’s lady (Parker) is rich while Flynn’s (Lupino and her infant son) are not. Flynn is a budding genius with an ego to match (which is understandable); he also has a roving eye for the ladies. I hated this film when young and I still hated it when I had last seen it about 30 years ago. Reviewers have always pinged the film on its lack of authentic shots of the canals of Venice as well as the backgrounds of the Alps (and the problem of the phony canals and background images of the alps were obvious the first time I that saw the film when a teenager) but Flynn’s performance was a major discovery for me when I again viewed it this past summer. His acting ability had grown in leaps and bounds in the 1940s and is right on in this film; that is right on in everything except for lecherous glances at women. There are perhaps a handful, and honestly I believe that these were director decisions (like The Adventures of Robin Hood direction discussed below). Looking back it is too bad that Errol and Ida only acted together in this film.

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A publicity shot of Ida & Flynn at the beginning of Escape Me Never. (LK personal collection)

For all of you Peter Blood (Captain Blood), Geoffrey Vickers (The Charge of the Light Brigade), and Robin Hood (The Adventures of Robin Hood) fans I’m going to shock you, so please sit down and hold on tightly. If a Flynn performance and film gets bumped from the bottom six of my favorite EF films most likely it will be by Mr. Flynn and his performance in Escape me Never. I know; heresy. Hey, I’m a former actor, a resurrected actor, and if lucky I’ll again be an actor. I’ve already stated what goes into making a film that grabs my interest. I need to state here that I’m talking about Errol Flynn the actor. I’m proud to say (other than the few director-pushed instances of over acting while eyeing a pretty woman) that EF’s internal system was functioning and his natural instincts were right on target. Perhaps working with people he liked helped, but for my money he was a hundred-fold better actor in the 1940s than he was in the 1930s.

That Forsyte Woman (1949)

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Errol Flynn and Greer Garson in a scene that is hard to watch in That Forsyte Woman. (LK personal collection)

This film was the first under another Flynn contract that allowed him to act in one film per year filmed at a studio other than Warner Bros. This stiff Victorian drama carried Flynn’s performances in Cry Wolf (1947) and the western Silver River (1948) to the next step of being as far away from the adventurous hero as he could possibly get. His performance was controlled and right in tune with the time period. Those who saw the film and expected to see Errol Flynn the hero must have been shocked by the time they exited the theater in 1949. That said, Flynn’s performance shows without a doubt that he really was a magnificent actor. If we can believe his words, and I do, this was one of his favorite performances (if memory serves me, Gentleman Jim Corbett, see the film list above, was another of his favorite roles). Greer Garson, Flynn’s co-star in the film, had heard a lot of trash talk about him prior to filming. After working with him she had nothing but praise for the actor and man.

Ladies and gentlemen, Errol Flynn had taken what he had learned during the 1930s, had crafted during the 1940s, and at the end of that decade put it all together. Regardless of what you think Flynn’s Soames Forsyte was the performance of his entire cinema career. I need to have a top 12 Flynn film list, and this is going to happen (I’ve just given you the two films that will make the list).

Here’s a quick thought for you
In 1940 Errol Flynn earned about eight times what
Olivia de Havilland earned. Why? They both became
stars when Captain Blood premiered in December 1935
but the level of stardom was evident by the end of the last
reel on that historic New York City night. … I can’t give
away Errol & Olivia but put the above sentences
together and you should be able to figure
out what happened as both of them
moved forward with their
professional careers.

Crossed Swords (1954)

This is the film that could have been if it had only been a Warner Bros. production. It had the great cinematographer Jack Cardiff (who had shot The Master of Ballantrae, which had been released the previous year, and who would be Flynn’s choice to shoot and direct his ill-fated William Tell). Flynn looked great (and much better than he did in Against All Flags, 1952, and The Master of Ballantrae) and his physical prowess hadn’t deteriorated (actually it looked better than in the two earlier swashbucklers) to what it would be in The Warriors (1955). Perhaps the Flynn-Barry Mahon teaming with an Italian production company was responsible for the result, which could have been much better. Worse, the production team couldn’t provide a decent script, a decent director, complete scenes (many could have used extra cuts and angles added to improve the final product), better action (some is quite poor) or decent actors (I’m not certain of what I think of Flynn and Gina Lollobrigida’s on-screen relationship other than it is definitely better than previously reported. … Alas, some of the acting other than Gina and EF is amateurish).

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The lines are on the DVD cover, which wasn’t too professionally produced.

My DVD was created using an Italian print of the film (Il Maestro Don Giovanni, which would translate to Master Don Juan, leading one to wonder who Flynn played in the Italian release of the film). The color is decent and not faded but not great. The entire film has had an English-language sound track added to an original Italian release print for the DVD. I’m certain that most, if not all, of the Italian actors were dubbed, but the sound (dialogue, sound effects, and film score) is not good. It is obvious that the editors attempted to get the words as close as possible to the actors’ mouth movements, but this meant that now Flynn’s words are slightly off, and it is definitely his voice. My guess is that the complete track was pulled from an English-language release.

For the most part Flynn (as Renzo), who was decent in the film, doesn’t seem to connect with the rest of the cast. My guess—and that’s all it is—was the language barrier while shooting the film, especially for the Italian-speaking actors connecting with Flynn. Cardiff and others behind the camera spoke English but I think that Flynn was the only actor saying his lines in English. Honestly, Flynn was a professional and I don’t think he had any problems with language during the filming.

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Errol Flynn and Gina Lollobrigida are about to surrender to their fates (as is her father, who is in the scene but off camera in this still). This image shows Flynn’s typical involvement in a scene as well as his physical appearance. (LK personal collection)

Cesare Danova, who played Raniero, Flynn’s staunch friend in their misadventures with the fairer sex, immigrated to the U.S. in the mid-1950s to play the title character in Don Giovanni (AKA Don Juan), which was released in 1955. He would go on to have a long career in American film and TV. My memory doesn’t shout out that he was dubbed in his American performances, but I could be wrong early in his U.S. films. Lollobrigida also began appearing in big American films in the 1950s. … The duel at the end of Crossed Swords was by far Flynn’s best climatic fight against the villain in all of his 1950s swashbucklers. And this is a massive understatement by LK. Flynn performed most of the final duel and his movements were fluid and well-done. His sword work was good and damn-near great (and there was very little stunt-doubling of Flynn in the final duel). Flynn’s swordplay far out-shined everything else he did in the 1950s. The only sword work that compares with his work in Crossed Swords was his short duel with Anthony Steel at the beginning of The Master of Ballantrae.

Again, this is the film that could have been if it had only been a Warner Bros. production.

BTW, swashbucklers co-produced in Europe with leading
English-speaking actors were often less than satisfactory well into the l960s.

Three more EF films and a return to Mr. Ellenstein

Errol Flynn made three films in which two were released in 1957 (The Big Boodle, The Sun Also Rises) and one in 1958 (Too Much, Too Soon). These films, all of which were American-produced after his long self-imposed exile in Europe. They contain, in my humble opinion, his best acting in the 1950s. This Errol Flynn was no longer the romantic hero who wins regardless if he lives or dies by the last reel of the film. Instead these performances were by a man who had lived life and had sunken to the depths of despair and yet had survived. These films presented a man who could no longer swing a blade or ride a horse and knows it as he nears the end of life. They are alive with sadness for an audience that knew what came before and yet they show a man who, if not quite a fighter to the end he does what he can to present as good an image as possible considering his situation.

Only Flynn’s Ned Sherwood in The Big Boodle is active and puts up a fight as he struggles to stay alive while clearing his name of a crime he didn’t commit.

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This image is based upon a b&w image in the LK Collection. Robert Ellenstein was one of the most important people in my life. See Bob’s comment about the acting and film world (below), as it gave my life focus at every step. I’m certain that he followed his simple rule as he lived his life and career. … I’ve known a lot of people who were not as they presented themselves. They had agendas that perhaps could be labeled as “heinous.” If yes, these people, if still alive, should be in prison. Bob Ellenstein was not one of these people. He was an extraordinary human being. And better he set my life on the course that it follows to this day. My father, my brother, and my mother influenced my life, and so did Robert Ellenstein. He was one of the most magnificent people that I have ever known during my entire life. Bob, thank you from the bottom of my heart. (art © Louis Kraft 2015)

I want to say a bit (probably a lot more than a bit) about actor and director Robert Ellenstein (who died in 2010). In the 1960s I was a theater major at what became California State University, Northridge (CSUN). The on-staff acting professor and I didn’t connect and I learned little from her. Luckily the university decided to bring in professionals to tutor the students. Jeff Corey, who had been blacklisted for 12 years in Hollywood during the communist witch hunts of the early 1950s, used his lost years to good advantage and began teaching acting. He became my acting coach while Bob Ellenstein became my directing coach. Bob and I connected and after I graduated college he became my acting coach, confidant, and good friend (as did his wonderful wife Lois). I can’t tell you how many happy and learning hours I spent with Bob and to a lesser degree with Lois.

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Errol Flynn as John Barrymore. Often it has been said that Flynn played Flynn in Too Much, Too Soon. I don’t know enough about John Barrymore’s life to know if this is true, but I intend to find out. For the record Flynn talked about how he played “Jack” Barrymore. (art © Louis Kraft 2015)

Bob Ellenstein played a key supporting role in Flynn’s Too Much, Too Soon, and of course I asked him about what it was like to work with Flynn (to this point in time I hadn’t seen the film). Bob’s lawyer entered the picture after Flynn’s John Barrymore had died. The answer was not what I wanted to hear: “My scenes were shot on days that he didn’t work. I never met the man.”

As the years passed and as Bob and I became close we shared more and more about our lives and as we did he guided me. … Acting is a lifelong study for a person must come in total contact with his or her being. That sounds simplistic; it is not. It is hard work. At one point Bob said to me while talking about the acting and film world, “Whatever you do, make sure that you can live with it.” I took this to heart. For the record I have never done anything that I can’t live with, and let me tell you that I have been presented with many unsavory propositions that would make you sick. I have never given in for the cost was way too expensive for my living soul.

An image of Mr. Flynn & yet another attack

On the late afternoon and evening of October 17, 2015, I was lucky to spend prime time with people from my past—people that shouldn’t be in my past, but friends that are still part of my life. It was a reunion, and honestly, if it wasn’t for a good friend of mine named Pete Senoff I probably would have passed, Thanks Pete, for it turned into a special time.

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From left: LK, Dennis Kreiger, and Ken Small at our high school reunion at the Sheraton Agoura Hills Hotel on 17oct2015. A good time for LK. (photo © Pailin Subanna-Kraft)

Dennis Kreiger and Ken Small went to the last two years of elementary school with me, the three years of high school, and Dennis spent at least a couple of years with me in college. Ken became a police officer in Los Angeles and eventually a chief of police in Florida and then in Huntington Beach, California. Dennis had a successful tennis business in Encino, California, for decades. They are two of the good guys out of my past and present. I don’t know if they knew who they would become, but I didn’t know my future. Early on I did well with writing and essays but it didn’t mean anything to me.

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Friend Dennis Riley, who was then a photographer’s mate in the U.S. Navy, shot this publicity photo in June 1969 at my parent’s house in Reseda, California, shortly after I completed my American Indian anthropology class, graduated from college, and began pursuing a career in acting. Oh yeah, broad-brimmed hats and I go way back. (photo © Louis Kraft 1969)

In my last semester in college I talked my way into an upper division anthropology class (with absolutely zero anthropology background). The professor gave in and I enjoyed myself in a class that dealt with American Indians that ranged from Alaska south into Central or South America. We had a term paper and I wrote about a young Apache’s journey into manhood. The professor set up a meeting between us. “Your paper is fiction,” she said. “It was supposed to be nonfiction.” “The instructions didn’t say that,” I replied. Her eyes looked up to the heavens. She shook her head, perhaps in the hope that I would go poof and disappear. I didn’t. Finally she chuckled and smiled. … I did quite well in that class. Still, I’m certain that if another hustler approached her without any anthropological background he would have fled for his life as she let loose with unbridled determination to never again deal with an outsider to the study of humankind.

Even when I wrote a screenplay about a shocking 1976 summer of acting in dinner theater (me), drugs (not me), racial prejudice, and bald-faced hatred wherein I was thrilled to escape the Lone Star state in one piece I still didn’t have a clue of what my future might hold. … Actually it had been preordained and was in place at least as early as 1970, and that experience was more horrifying, but as usual it didn’t register in my brain. Moreover, I still hadn’t realized what type of person Errol Flynn really was. This would still take me another decade or two to learn.

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I once wrote an article entitled “The Image of Errol Flynn” (Films of the Golden Age, Spring 2000), and even though I had made it clear the article dealt with Flynn in the 1940s letters to the editor attacked me for not including Flynn in the 1950s. Often editors will ask writers of articles to respond to letters to the editor. I should say that I hate letters to the editor for often they are written by people that don’t know what they are talking about. In this case I simply said to the editor that there was no reason to reply as the ridiculous statement was out of scope of the article. … This hasn’t always been the case with some of my articles published in Wild West. These comments have often been flavored by racism or hatred toward me, but often I haven’t had to reply as I have viewed the comments an open invitation to attack. The editor, Greg Lalire, is first class and a good friend, but at times he walks a fine line between reality and insanity. More than once he has taken care of the problem offline (that is not in print or online). I love this! In 2014 an attack struck from a place that it shouldn’t have (and those reasons won’t be exposed until I go on an offensive that will initiate a war, a war a number of magnificent historians want me to start). Will I? Honestly, I don’t know. Guts Kraft, you need to trust your instincts and expose the lies and deception!

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LK enjoying champagne with Olivia de Havilland (“OdeH” as I often call her and “Livvie” as Errol Flynn often called her) at her home in Paris, France, in July 2009. The lady is alive, funny, informative (when she wants to be but secretive when she thinks it is best), bright, charming, and oh-so-sexy. Livvie is alive and I hope that she outlives me. For the record, she has been burned by unscrupulous writer-historians and agrees with my views on Errol Flynn. (photo © Louis Kraft 2009)

What I have just stated above has also been true with so-called historians that write about Errol Flynn. They view him as open season, and fabricate facts and quotes while often citing obscure documentation that is hard to obtain at this late date. Worse, their facts and quotes are at times fiction (or, if you will, lies). You do not want to hear my opinion of these people, and I am using the word “people” here very loosely for these hacks aren’t “people.” I’m not going to call them what I know they are in this blog. Most likely I’ll never call them what they are, but I have every intention of exposing their fraudulent writing that has been created to destroy a human being’s life and reputation long after the fact without valid proof. As far as I’m concerned this is a heinous crime.

Back to the swashbuckling image

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A classic magazine cover; alas, they don’t make them like this anymore. This isn’t quite true, for Wild West magazine is moving to art for their covers (and this is something that I like).

Beginning with the release of Captain Blood (based upon the first portion of Rafael Sabatini’s novel, Captain Blood: The Odyssey, Houghton Mifflin Co., 1922) in New York City in December 1935 Errol Flynn became an overnight sensation—a superstar* if you will—and his co-star Olivia de Havilland became a star (but not as bright as she would have liked). Warner Bros. realized that they had struck gold with the Flynn and de Havilland combination and began looking for another epic to cast them in; it would be The Charge of the Light Brigade (1936), inspired perhaps by Alfred Lord Tennyson’s epic poem of vainglorious defeat. Again the film was adventurous as it mixed a little history with a lot of fiction. Unfortunately a love triangle bogged the story down. Nevertheless Warner Bros. confirmed what they already knew—the combination of Errol Flynn and Olivia de Havilland in an epic romance meant big bucks at the box office. But for some unknown reason Warners ignored what they knew and began casting Flynn in films that were little better than melodramas in scope and delivery. Except for The Prince and the Pauper, but here Flynn was little more than a supporting player with a magnificent duel at the end of the film. By the end of 1937 Warner Bros. had finally realized their error of splitting Flynn and de Havilland apart. After almost making a major casting flub (casting James Cagney as Robin Hood), someone woke up and suddenly Errol and Olivia were once again cast together in a major motion picture. Filming on The Adventures of Robin Hood began in fall 1937.

* The word “superstar” was first used in relation to a great cricket team in the 1830s. Almost a century passed before it was used to describe great hockey players between the years 1910 and 1920. More decades would pass until the word hit its stride as we now know it today, but that wasn’t until long after Errol Flynn’s time.

One thing stood out in the 1930s and it is still true today—Errol Flynn appeared very natural on film. It, for the most part, looked like he wasn’t acting, and in a time when many actors came from the stage and their performances looked like acting, Flynn didn’t overact. At times the critics would chew on him for his naturalness, and judging by comments that he made over the years this hurt and bothered him.

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This is an original lobby card from the 1938 release of The Adventures of Robin Hood. (LK personal collection)

Oh, there were times when he did overact, such as in a scene in The Adventures of Robin Hood where his eyes go from left to right (or was it right to left?) in a closeup as he supposedly took in lay of the land (as to where Sir Guy of Gisbourne’s (Basil Rathbone) soldiers were waiting to jump him. I’d bet my life that this ridiculous closeup was insisted upon by the director. Actually one of two directors: William Keighley and Michael Curtiz, as I believe both had a hand in the major episode sequence in which the cut that I’m talking about is located in the film. I’ll have to go back to the script and match the closeup number with the call sheets to see when the shot was made.

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Published art based upon a studio still of the Rathbone and Flynn final duel in The Adventures of Robin Hood. I think that it is pretty good work by the artist that created it. (LK personal collection)

With the release of The Adventures of Robin Hood Flynn’s stature rose to new heights. I above discussed a shot that bothered me; there are others. That said, Flynn is magnificent as Robin Hood. His physicality and athletic ability is present at all times as is his capability with the sword. … My problem here is major, for no one can handle broadswords as presented in The Adventures of Robin Hood and I know this for I have swung a broadsword that was made of material that was considerably lighter than steel. It isn’t easy and there is absolutely no way that anyone can swing a broadsword as shown in Flynn’s 1938 film. That said, Flynn’s handling of the sword in that film was extraordinary (albeit they are rapier cuts and slices and thrusts). Basil Rathbone loudly proclaimed that he had studied the sword and “could have killed Mr. Flynn whenever I wanted.” (I hope that this quote is close; if not, it is a paraphrase). You want to know something? If in reality it was a duel to the death between Rathbone and Flynn, my money’s on Flynn. Reason: Rathbone was swinging the blade by the numbers. If what I just said is true, Rathbone was a student fighting with technique while Flynn fought to survive (and he had plenty of survival skills that dated back to his days in New Guinea … not to mention his dueling lessons that dated to Captain Blood). Again, and without batting an eye, my money’s on Flynn.

Alas, it will take three books to deal with Flynn’s swashbuckling and western and war and human experience films. If it becomes obvious that I won’t meet my goal of three full-fledged nonfiction books on his life I have every intention of writing a lightweight volume or two (similar to Tony Thomas’s superior film histories and genre-specific tomes w/photos books). This is easy for me. All the research is in place and I’ve got tons of images. This could be accomplished in half a year per volume (my average nonfiction book takes at least five to seven years to write when it is a major project). … If something happens and suddenly time becomes short I will move to plan B.

Mounting up with Mr. Flynn

In My Wicked, Wicked Ways Flynn called himself “the rich man’s Roy Rogers.” I didn’t check to see if I have the quote correct or if I have paraphrased it here. I’m not certain if he was talking about later in the cycle of his eight westerns or not.

A surprise named Dodge City

If memory serves me, and I didn’t dig for this blog (that said, I know Flynn), Mr. Flynn questioned being cast in a western film when he became aware that Warner Bros. was preparing a western to fit his screen persona (Dodge City, 1939).

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A relaxed and smiling Errol Flynn on the first or second day of Dodge City location filming. (photo in LK personal collection)

Of course he hadn’t done any research on the western expansion as the United Stated pushed to make the country extend from the Atlantic Ocean to the Pacific Ocean. He didn’t think that an Australian accent was present on the western frontier. Actually all accents were present on the western frontier and Mr. Flynn fit the mold of the adventurers that went a-westering to find fame and fortune. Trust me when I say the following, … Errol Flynn was more believable than the multitudes of “cowboy” actors that have been little more than clichés since the beginning of film. I’m certain that he would have enjoyed hearing this during his lifetime. He didn’t. If I meet him in the hereafter I’ll tell him this.

Like my knowledge of the sword I know the western experience. Actually a hundredfold more than the sword. I know race relations, I know the people that ventured West, I know the American Indians (certainly the Cheyennes, Arapahos, Apaches, and Navajos), and I know the people that attempted to end racial war (I’m upfront and center with this topic).

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This art was created from a recent photo of Pailin Subanna-Kraft and LK. She’s my pistol-packing lady and I’m Mr. Hickok. BTW, the hair was mine as I needed useful photos with long hair. It was recently clipped for an event but don’t rule out the return of long tresses for now that it is gone I miss it. (art © Louis Kraft 2015)

Although I don’t write about the gunmen, I know a hell of a lot about James Butler (Wild Bill) Hickok (who, if I get lucky, I’ll someday play on stage), John Wesley Hardin, and Doc Holliday. Errol Flynn would have fit in with all of these people, and if he lived in the 1860s or 1880s he would have been a survivor. His performances in western films, except for his next to last, Montana (1950), are all acceptable. Three are exceptional (Dodge City; Virginia City, 1940; and They Died with Their Boots On, 1941), two are acceptable (San Antonio, 1945, and Rocky Mountain, 1950), and one I cannot comment about (Silver River, 1948) as I haven’t seen it in decades. … While still on the subject of who I’d like to play on stage, add Errol Flynn to the list. In the case of Hickok and Flynn I need to convince my director and producer to buy into the project (which I’d write). The Flynn project would be original but the Hickok project would be based upon a great novel, East of the Border, by Johnny Boggs (and in this case I also need Boggs to buy into the project).

“Must See, Must Read”
Five intriguing books and five films about the Indian Wars
by Louis Kraft*
Wild West (August 2014)
They Died With Their Boots On (1941, on DVD, Warner Home Video): If Errol Flynn hadn’t played George Armstrong Custer, there would have been no Kraft writing about the Indian wars. Long years past through present day, critics of this film have pounded it for its historical inaccuracy. Although true, let me invite you to actually research it—which I’ve done since the mid-1990s in preparation of multiple books on Errol Flynn (the first to be called Errol & Olivia). The thrust has been simple: In 1941 Warner Bros. feared being sued, and historical players and facts changed to fiction. Even though the film is fiction, it is so close to truths that have been disguised and altered that it’s scary. I can’t list them here, but trust me, for ’tis true. Don’t buy it? Do your own research. … Errol Flynn’s performance as George Armstrong Custer is magnificent, for he captured the spirit of the man; and Olivia de Havilland is perfect as Libbie Custer. It is arguably Flynn’s best performance, and by far their best performances in the eight films they did together.”
* This column is ongoing in Wild West (by contributors to the magazine).
Usually five books and five films have mini reviews. I made my comments personally related to my writing career. This issue also included two other LK articles.
One, a feature, “Wynkoop’s Gamble to End War,” was, I believe, the best
article that I have written about Ned Wynkoop.
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Errol Flynn as George Armstrong Custer in They Died with Their Boots On just before he sets out for Montana Territory and destiny, and the real Custer 11 years before his death at the Battle of the Little Bighorn. For the record Custer set out from Fort Abraham Lincoln in Dakota Territory on his final Indian campaign on May 17, 1876. He didn’t engage Sioux, Cheyenne, and Arapaho Indians on the Little Bighorn River until June 25, 1876. This fact is here for, believe it or not, people have stated to me numerous times that Custer fought his final battle a day or two after setting out. (both images are in the LK personal collection)

Already this blog is fairly long and I don’t want to expend another four thousand or more words here. If you’ve read my Flynn articles you know what I think about They Died with Their Boots On (my best Boots article appeared in the June 2008 issue of American History). There had been a pitch to True West to write short articles on all eight of Flynn’s western films (which had been accepted at the time of the pitch in June 2012) but then, suddenly, as I prepared to deliver the first article the idea was dropped by the magazine. My view of the change without notice: Bullshit, which I made known. Because of this I’m on True West’s “S-list” and have no intention of again pitching them with another story idea. They can pitch me and if the story idea is acceptable to me I’ll write it for them (ditto, Wild West), but I have no intention of pitching True West until this less-than-savory event is resolved to my satisfaction. Wild West is another story, but it, too has something that we need to resolve. … Add that book writing is my major concern and honestly I don’t give a damn if I ever write another magazine article. Hell, I’m never going to write for Oracle or Yahoo! again (and they paid me a hell of a lot of money)—why should writing for True West or Wild West be any different (and they pay peanuts)?

Hey, that’s life. … At least that is my life at this date in time.

For the record Errol Flynn looks like he was born astride a horse. This was evident in Captain Blood, The Charge of the Light Brigade, and in all of his westerns (except for Montana).

The goal has been to hopefully catch your interest in Errol Flynn, but not to write a book within a blog.

For those of you that doubt me and what’s a comin’ …

I have one thing to say. Don’t! I have always delivered in the past and I will deliver in the future.

Upcoming Blogs

  • The song remembers when
    Music is something I’ve lived with and know (and it plays a large role in my life every day). This blog should be easy to write (and it has been) for songs often link me to a person or an event. In my last blog I announced that this blog would be next. Unfortunately (or fortunately for me) this blog continues to grow and grow as there are musicians and composers and singers that are with me all the time. Their music impacts me almost every day, but some compositions and performances stand out as they have influenced my life in one way or another. … At this point in my life everything is important: Being a good husband, a good father, a good writer, and continuing to “walk” this earth. … Since my time has become short—very short time-wise—I’m trying to cut down the gaps between blogs with shorter ones that deal with the immediacy of my day-to-day life. Fortunately the length of time between blogs has shortened, but alas the length of the blogs hasn’t.
  • Ongoing Sand Creek and PSK updates
    With everything basically falling into place for The Discovery (there is still work but it’ll be easy in comparison to what has been completed), Sand Creek and the Tragic End of a Lifeway will dominate my writing world. That means that it is up-front-and-center seven days a week, and that everything else (finishing The Discovery; blogs; research and writing on Errol & Olivia, that is, Flynn and de Havilland; Kit Carson nonfiction and fiction research; and taking care of the business portion of my writing life) is secondary. As time moves forward variations on this series of blogs will update you on the manuscript’s status, that is what I’m doing as I piece the tragic end of the Cheyenne’s lifeway together (as well as completing the other listed blogs, all of which will be large). Oh, as Pailin has been a headliner in many of my blogs but has had a smaller presence of late, it is also my intention to bring back the leading player in my life.
  • A Louis Kraft walkabout in Thailand, Cheyenne Indians, and a dark glimpse into the future
    This blog is currently being drafted, but due to the length it will probably be broken into two blogs (and hopefully not three). My blogs are always personal, but this blog will be doubly so, for it will touch upon a subject that I have hidden for years but now must confront.
  • Unscrupulous writer-historians and how they dupe their readers
    I’ve struggled trying to decide if I should be vague or be specific and take people to task who push their agendas at the cost of truth. They create fictions and lies and often their cited documentation is a fabrication or worse. There is a war going on and I’m in the middle of it. If I opt for the second approach all hell will break out (at least for me).
    •  It is now looking like this blog will become two blogs: 1) Indian wars, and 2) Film history. Reason: Information blasted over social media often deals with my very small world of historical research and writing. Some of the information I’m stumbling upon online and reading in printed form is shocking. Unfortunately people (I can’t call them historians; if I did I would choke) gobble up this misinformation and reprint it as if it is fact.

A Sand Creek and the Tragic End of a Lifeway update

Website & blogs © Louis Kraft 2013-2018

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

Click on an image to expand it


 You should know that when I write blogs I’m not writing plays,
articles, talks, or books. When drafting a blog I function as a journalist.
I have points to make. Sometimes I deal with the past but often I deal with
the present. The goal is to present an opinion on events (past and present) while getting my facts straight. When I deal with the past I’m researching a memoir; when I deal with the present I’m focused on events that affect my life, and
I talk about them as they are important to me. Regardless if I write about
the past or the present the goal is to inform and entertain you.


The times are boiling …

One of my best friends of all time went under the knife on September 23. A wonderful friend of mine in Thailand has just lost her brother. …

An anticipated call did come on September 23 from a
wonderful lady who is my best friend’s sister.

A language translator totally messed up reality
as to my Thai friend’s brother’s situation
and tragically he died.

Life is precious and I make an effort every day to cherish the time I still have.

As promised in a previous blog I’m keeping my Sand Creek project up front with status updates. Ideally these will be shorter blogs (and not books, as my friend Vee has often reminded me about many of my posts).

What follows will mostly deal with the trials and tribulations of LK attempting to make progress on an Indian wars book that will be in my opinion perhaps the most important book that I’ll ever write. All I have to do is complete the manuscript and then work closely with my publisher to ensure that the printed book is as good as we can make it.

You should know that when I begin to draft a blog
I have an idea of what I will present. When I write fiction
the characters take over and move the plot, but in the blogs
it is the subject matter that controls the flow of the text.

A return to Sand Creek and the Tragic End of a Lifeway

During 12 days in June 2014 I performed intensive primary Cheyenne research at the Braun Research Library at the former Southwest Museum in Los Angeles, California. I had been promised my extensive photocopy request in September 2014. And don’t ignore the word “extensive,” for it was. Read a massive amount of work for Research Services Assistant Manola Madrid, who had worked with me closely on previous visits to the Braun. There would be a delay, but this was not Manola’s fault, and I truly believe that the delay was not caused by the Braun. …

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The Southwest Museum in Los Angeles, Calif. (art © Louis Kraft 2014)

Changes at the Autry National Center, to which the Southwest Museum merged with in 2003, were about to become reality. In July 2014 people that had landed research grants (if that is the correct term) would dominate the Braun staff’s time, and then the reality of the closure of the Braun and ultimately the final closure of the Southwest Museum (which still hasn’t happened as it is still open on Saturdays for people to see, … I believe one exhibit that has rotated some artifacts and improved the placards that describe what the visitors see.

WestResearchTripMontage_sept-oct2014_wsSeptember 2014 came and went. Actually the rest of 2014 came and went; great times for LK as I was able to take PSK on her first research trip to the West in the Vette. Almost 4,000 miles in 19 days. She researched Sand Creek in Colorado with my good friend and great Cheyenne wars historian John Monnett and his wonderful wife Linda (they kindly welcomed us into their home). In Santa Fe, New Mexico, PSK got to hang out with my wonderful friend Tomas Jaehn, who is responsible for creating the Louis Kraft Collection at the Chávez History Library, which is part of the New Mexico History Museum (if you saw the historic artifacts that the history museum has hidden away you’d faint). Pailin was again put to work at the Chávez and then locating the last place that Ned Wynkoop lived at in Santa Fe (this last thanks to Tomas’s right-on tips on how to find the building), and again came through with flying colors. We next headed for Texas to see my great friends Glen and Ellen Williams (and Glen’s pretty sister LInda), and like Mr. and Mrs. Monnett, the Williams opened their home to us.

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This is a detail of a painting that is one of many placards at the Bosque Redondo Memorial at Fort Sumner in southeast New Mexico (unfortunately I don’t know the name of the person that created the art). Here Col. Christopher “Kit” Carson (right) is agreeing to command Gen. James Carleton’s (left) Mescalero Apache campaign in 1863. The Mescaleros would be removed to the Bosque Redondo before Carson’s burnt earth campaign against the Navajos began later that year. BTW, the Bosque Redondo Memorial is magnificent. If you have any interest in the Apaches or the Navajos’ forced confinement in a deadly environment a visit to the memorial is well worth your time. If you are a Mescalero Apache or Navajo cultural or Indian wars historian-writer it is mandatory that you visit. … BTW, Kit Carson was not the racist-butcher that so many uninformed people stuff down our throats. For starters he had an Arapaho wife, a Cheyenne wife, and a Spanish wife. He also spoke six or seven languages: English, Arapaho, Cheyenne, Spanish, Ute, Mescalero Apache dialect, and I believe Navajo. Not bad for a person who is now often slandered and libeled as a butcher and racist by people with their thumbs stuck where the sun doesn’t shine.

On the way to Texas we visited the Bosque Redondo in southeast New Mexico where the Navajos were incarcerated after the “Long Walk” in 1864 when they surrendered to Kit Carson’s burnt earth campaign that had few fatal casualties (I believe under 30 deaths). This area now thrives but in the 1860s it was a land of pestilence and death. This was must see for my next nonfiction Indian wars book will feature Carson’s relationship with Indians (but most likely not the Navajo campaign or its aftermath).

Yeah, I’m up to my usual evasion tricks. Sorry.

Back to my line of thought. January 2015 arrived and I still didn’t have any of my Cheyenne research that I had been promised in September 2014. If you know me well you know that in the past (actually my dark past) I had a short fuse. Time has mellowed me, but at the beginning of this year I needed to calm the rest of me down (not a small task).

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Liza Posas, who is archivist and head librarian of the Braun Research Library, played a major role in my 2014 research time within the George Bird Grinnell Papers held by the Southwest Museum. She is professional, open, helpful, and kind. I have enjoyed every moment working with her, and look forward to when we again work together. In this image of her on 20jun2014 she is showing me the scope of the George Bird Grinnell Papers. (photo © Louis Kraft & Liza Posas 2014)

On August 6, 2015 (13½ months after I made the request), I picked up photocopies for what amounted to a little over a third of my order at the Autry National Center (a short surface-street drive as opposed to a three-freeway potential nightmare). Email communication at that time stated that the rest of my research had been digitized. I was quoted a page cost for the digital pages and told that I would hear more in a week. The week passed. Actually over a month passed. Believe it or not I have deadlines, but worse it takes me at least five times as long to write a page of nonfiction than it does a page of fiction (to be honest, I believe that this is an understatement for I’m thrilled when I get a full page of Sand Creek text written in a day (granted that day may only be five or eight hours, but heck sometimes I can crank out two or three pages of fiction in an hour). Remember that none of this writing is polished for I’m only talking about rough drafts. That said, nonfiction polishing easily takes a lot longer than fiction polishing as I’m again concentrating on facts and dates and making sure that a polish doesn’t turn the nonfiction into fiction.

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This image of Pailin and LK is now from a time long gone (although the art is based upon a photo taken a handful of days ago). I’m playing with it and trying to use it to figure out how I’ll create a piece of art that is required. It is an ongoing search for me to figure out what I need to do to create artwork in the very near future (and believe me it has nothing to do with gunfighters or frontiersmen). I’m a firm believer in doing plenty of research before a word is written, or in this case playing with color, line, and technique before doing anything (other than researching the subject) before attempting to create art for a book cover. (art © Louis Kraft 2015)

The Sand Creek manuscript deals with five types of people: Whites that saw an opportunity in a new land (Colorado Territory) and did what they could to secure the land and their fortunes at the cost of the American Indians that claimed the land as theirs; the Cheyennes and Arapahos who called this land theirs; the whites that married into the tribes; the mixed-bloods that walked between two races; and the whites that dared to speak out against the butchery of Cheyennes and Arapahos who thought that they were under the protection of the U.S. military. … Add females whenever I have enough information to bring them to life. … Oh, I should add that racism was rampant in the 1860s.

Sand Creek and the Tragic End of a Lifeway is not an easy manuscript to write. The research is massive, and worse I have to bring the leading and major supporting players to life with a minimal amount of primary information. And just as important I need to make the text flow seamlessly between the various people groups and their actions, while at the same time attempting to keep all the players’ points of view (POV) in focus. The goal is to have the reader make their decision on all the players’ actions.

Doable? You bet! Can I do it? I don’t know, but I hope that I can.

For the story to work the people must be real. They must live and breathe and have objectives as they react to their life and times.

Back to the immediate present

In mid-September my fear threshold began to reach its eruption peak. The Sand Creek manuscript is due at OU Press on October 1, 2016. Hell, I’m light years away from completing a rough first draft, a first draft that I’m still collecting primary source material to complete (again, I did my research at the Braun in June 2014).

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Manola Madrid working on the first floor of the Braun Research Library for LK in June 2014. She’s a hard worker, very knowledgeable on the subject matter, and most important an absolute delight to know and call friend. For what it is worth, Manola and I can talk about anything. That’s a real nice feeling, and worth keeping. With all the massive changes that the Southwest and the Autry are undergoing she has chosen to walk away and retire in mid-October 2015. I’m thrilled for her, … my lone hope is that our relationship can continue and that someday I’ll meet her husband and that she’ll meet Pailin. (photo © Louis Kraft & Manola Madrid 2014)

LK is thrilled (and angry) but thrilled is the bottom word. I’m writing a book about the end of the Southern Cheyenne lifeway. This primary research; useable or not is mandatory by me. There was so much to see in just one archive that there was no way I could get through all of it in 12 days. Thus my costly research request, which—and to repeat myself—was due in September 2014. September 17, 2015, arrived and I again complained. I was told that my complaint was confusing. Confusing? Well maybe, but I wasn’t obscure. More important my complaint garnered results for on September 21 I picked up a CD with the remainder of my research request of June 2014.

This was a joyous occasion for I got to spend two hours with Manola Madrid, a long-time research service assistant at the Braun Research Library at the former Southwest Museum in Los Angeles.

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Marva Felchin, director of libraries and archives at the Autry National Center. (art © Louis Kraft 2015)

I also spent prime time with Marva Felchin, director of libraries and archives at the Autry National Center. I met Marva while researching obscure and yet mandatory primary source material for Ned Wynkoop and the Lonely Road from Sand Creek. She would attend an Errol Flynn talk locally in Burbank, Calif., soon after (I think in 2008). On September 21 I delivered a promised Geronimo magazine article, as well as two Ned Wynkoop articles that I knew that the Autry didn’t have to Marva for the Autry Resources Center (ARC). I believe that the ARC, a 105,000 square-foot research center that will house the former Southwest Museum archive and research material (over 500,000 artworks and artifacts + archival material) and the Autry’s library and archive (not sure how large this is). Although the private opening might be in late 2016 most likely the public opening won’t happen until 2017. On this day Marva told me that if needed I could perform research before the ARC opens.

That was very kind of Marva. I don’t think I’ll need to do any research before the opening, but it is good to know that the door will be open to me if I need to do additional research. This is a good feeling. Thank you, Marva (unfortunately I have no images of Marva to share).

Autry National Center is magnificent … almost

The Autry National Center is magnificent, but it doesn’t compare to similar facilities, such as National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum in Oklahoma City. Not too many years back when the Autry decided to merge with the Southwest Museum, this action opened the door to major respectability. Do not under estimate this, for the Southwest’s holdings are a major coup for the Autry.

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Over the years the Autry National Center has had many names (Why? I have no clue why, but can guess that the rich and famous continued to spout their view and progressively have worked to remove not only the westering experience from the museum’s name but also—God forbid—have tried to push the legendary Gene Autry, who is responsible for the museum, into the dark shadows of a long-gone time). I’m not a fan of Gene’s one-hour B-westerns, his 1950s TV show, or his singing. That said, he was a major influence on his world and if it wasn’t for him there would be no Autry National Center. The “Inventing Custer: Legends of the Little Bighorn” exhibit was brilliant and was by far the best exhibit that I have ever seen at the Autry (or elsewhere). It ranged from Custer and his times (artifacts, including his hair, which his wife Libbie had clipped prior to an expedition on the Plains and BTW he was a strawberry blond and nowhere close to being “Yellow Hair,” to photos, to Custer in afterlife, which included film, toys, and memorabilia). As already stated I have never been a fan of Mr. Autry, but more recently (22Jun2007 through 13Jan2008) the Autry presented a marvelous exhibit that focused exclusively on “the Singing Cowboy’s” life and times (“Gene Autry and the Twentieth-Century West: The Centennial Exhibition, 1907-2007”). Unfortunately I have inside information that confirms that many of the elite members of the Autry were unhappy with the exhibit and refused to support it. SHAME ON THEM! This was by far the second best exhibit I have ever seen at the Autry, and in the future it should be repeated! Unfortunately “Inventing Custer” was pieced together with artifacts, photos, toys, books, and film memorabilia from multiple archives and private collections (and would be almost impossible to bring back for an encore). (photo of “Inventing Custer” banner © Louis Kraft 1996)

Still you need to realize that people who light their cigarettes with $1,000 dollar bills, shall I call them the “major” Autry donors, bitched. As far as they were concerned money counts, such as their designer clothes, their $10,000 necklaces, the glitter of the Autry … I used to attend 2nd (or was it 3rd) tier openings at the Autry. Those days are history. You want to attend an opening, fork up $1,700 or perhaps $1,800. I wouldn’t call these openings ones that the general public can attend. What can I say? You get the picture, other than these elite people don’t give a bleep that the Southwest goldmine is now part of the Autry. … American Indian culture and artifacts mean little to them. “Why are we wasting our money on an institution that was dying?” (this is a quote based upon words that I recently heard but wasn’t able to jot down exactly for prosperity). Lucky them! Bottom line, they don’t give a bleep about the wondrous treasure that the Southwest (and its now dead and gone Braun Research LIbrary) once was.

You want to know the truth? The Southwest Museum (which includes the Braun) was special. The Autry has always reeked of money, and the facility has always been gorgeous. Unfortunately when compared to other institutions of a similar type it can’t compare. Now it can, for regardless of rich bitching it now controls the massive collection of American Indian artifacts and research that the Southwest once owned. Ladies and gentlemen I have been off and on (at the moment off) a proud member of the Autry. To quote one of only three TV series that I have liked (The X-Files), “The truth is out there.” And it is for the Autry National Center.

The Autry National Center is poised to claim its position as one of the great western history and cultural museums in the United States. I certainly believe that the person leading the way, President and CEO W. Richard (Rick) West, Jr., will ensure that this happens.

Some views; wanted or not …

Los Angeles is currently divided between the extremely rich and everyone else, who struggle to pay bills.* The middle class? What’s that? Actually it is a name that represents a dead and departed race of people that has ceased to exist and that is the middle class. Worse, and I’m not talking about racism; rather I’m talking about the future that has, alas, arrived. Specifically to the Autry’s major donors, the extraordinary and exceptional artifacts housed at the Southwest don’t count. What is at risk here is the American western experience, which includes the Plains Indians, Southwest Indians, Pacific Coast Indians, Alaskan Indians, and the massive conquest of their homelands and destruction of their cultures.

* This statement is simplistic at best. What isn’t simplistic or overstated is that the city of Los Angeles (North Hollywood is a town in LA)  is quickly becoming a modern-day Tombstone, Arizona. Los Angeles had a confirmed murder count of 39 in August (LA Times, “Deadliest August in Los Angeles in 8 years,” 4Sept2015). This past weekend (September 26-27) 19 people were shot and five died (LA Times, “19 Shootings, A Call for Help: LAPD appeals to community after new bloodshed,” 30sept2015). Although I have had guns pointed at me I have yet to witness shootings in North Hollywood. That said, I no longer walk at night for violence often stalks the streets of NoHo.

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I don’t have an image of Kevin Tighe as Miles (damn!!!). Tighe, along with Wes Studi (who was at least 30 years too young to play Geronimo) were the two outstanding performances in Geronimo: An American Legend. I don’t know either man but shortly after the release of Dances with Wolves (1990) I spent good time with Studi in an American Indian shop in Tarzana, Calif. Unfortunately the shop is long gone and I never met Studi again. My guess, both men did their homework, … something Bob Duvall (who I worked closely with for about four months in the 1980s) didn’t do. This image of Miles is in the LK personal collection and was published first in 1886. It has since been published in Lt. Charles Gatewood & His Apache Wars Memoir (2005) and in “Geronimo’s Gunfighter Attitude” (Wild West, October 2015).

This is America and it must not be forgotten! American Indian lifeways count, and so do the racial interactions between invading whites and the people that initially welcomed their presence. During this time very few whites accepted American Indians as human beings, and those that dared to are American heroes; not those that stole, incarcerated, and if need be butchered people that they felt were below them on the evolution scale. … If I am even close in my opinion I am predicting a “Pandora’s Box” that when it is opened will initiate the end of America’s heritage. As Kevin Tighe, who played General Nelson Miles, says to Matt Damon’s Lieutenant Britton Davis (who BTW had resigned his military commission in 1885 and lived in Mexico at the time of Geronimo’s and Naiche’s surrender in September 1886) near the end of Geronimo: An American Legend (Columbia Pictures, 1993): “Lieutenant, you’re more worried about keeping your word to a savage than to fulfilling your duties to the citizens of this country. We won and that’s what counts. It’s over with Geronimo, the Apache, and the whole history of the West, except for being a farmer.”

You want my opinion? Honestly, you don’t want to hear my opinion for much of it isn’t printable.

I’ve been cramming on the digital files from the September 2015 Braun delivery since I’ve received the CD from Manola. I’m looking at the files to ensure that they are readable. I’m also spot reading and searching for primary information that might be included in the Sand Creek manuscript. Let me tell you that this is slow going.

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This is Black Kettle, and for the record I constantly attempt to create portraits of him; this image will not appear in Sand Creek and the Tragic End of a Lifeway (and you can take this to the bank). … It looks like Black Kettle, John Chivington, John Evans, William Byers, Ned Wynkoop, William Bent, and George Bent are my leading players. Left Hand is also but no images of him exist (my loss). There are other Cheyenne and Arapaho players who could become leading players such as Bull Bear, Tall Bull, Little Raven (and I hope that they can be; alas, no images exist of Tall Bull). … Back to Black Kettle. Folks, he was not an elderly fellow that dropped out of the most important time of his life or his people’s lives. He was up front and center, and he had more guts and courage than any of the Cheyenne warriors that fought the overwhelming might of the United States. His life was always at risk, by both his own people and the invading whites. (art © Louis Kraft 2015)

However, when I do find a jewel I’m right into the manuscript and adding the information. The other day I found pure gold on Cheyenne Chief Black Kettle that I had no idea existed. Honestly, this is what I’m looking for as Black Kettle is one of the leading players in the Sand Creek manuscript and I’m desperately trying to find events that happened in his life to fill in the gaps. This is directly related to my view that actions define who people are and not what someone says about them.

Again, I’m thrilled. … But the purpose of this post is threefold: Bitch, which I’ve done; praise, which I’ve done; and alert Indian wars writers to wake up to a massive archive in SoCal that will reopen in a blink of an eye (2017) that there is material available that can be added to your manuscripts in ways you wouldn’t believe. If you are a historian doing Plains or Southwest Indian research wake up and add validity to your writing. … The former Braun Research Library (at the former Southwest Museum) along with the former Autry National Center library and archives will provide you with a research center that will blow you away (American Indian research and including the Indian wars).

I’ve again been harsh, and believe me I have been pounded in the past by companies that I write for that I’m an ingrate that bites the hand that feeds him. True? Probably. … Know that I care about everything that I do. This means that I can’t take prisoners, that I must fight for the best product possible at all times and that includes receiving requested documentation when promised and not being forced to complain again and again until I receive a comment that I’m unclear in what is owed me. I have deadlines and I can’t afford to miss too many of them or I won’t be hirable.

For the record

“There’s gold in them ‘thar’ hills!” I have no clue if this is a real quote of not. And, by God, I have struck it! Mining the Cheyennes at the Braun Research Library in June 2014 has already proved worth every hour I put in, every complaint I had to make to receive requested documentation, and every dollar that it has cost me (and it wasn’t cheap).

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This image is from 1997’s Titanic. Here Leonardo DiCaprio (as Jack Lawson) proclaims at the beam of the mighty vessel on its maiden voyage: “I’m king of the world!” Danny Nucci (as Fabrizio, Dawson’s friend), joins him. When this film was released it was storied to become the largest financial disaster in film history. Instead it became the largest grossing film worldwide ever (to that point in time). Almost everyone I knew loved the film, which went on to win a ton of awards including the Oscar for best film. Many of these people have since dismissed the film. … For the record I have two film lists: a top 10 Errol Flynn films (and The Adventures of Robin Hood isn’t on the list) and a top 50 films which does not include Flynn films. Only one film on my top 50 films list has won the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences’ Oscar for best picture, and that was Titanic. Perhaps Kevin Costner’s magnificent Dances with Wolves (1990) should be on my list but it isn’t. I believe that Costner’s Open Range (2003) with Bob Duvall and Annette Bening is a much better film, and it is in the top 10 of my top 50 films list. … Even though I work on “The Song Remembers When” blog whenever I have free time there is a chance that a short blog, like this one, can sneak in. And I’m going to announce it here: “Errol Flynn & Louis Kraft; the connection and a view.” Be warned that it will include prose that might anger you, hopefully enlighten you, but certainly will be based upon a long-time film knowledge combined with a deep-seated gut-feeling that is present whenever I view film. For what it is worth I study film four to five times a week as it a great way to understand how dialogue; plot; script; editing; direction; cinematography; film scores, which is my favorite type of music; and good production values influence every word that I write for print (and that includes these blogs).

At the moment my every waking hour is dominated by one thought: Kraft, when are you working on the Sand Creek and the Tragic End of a Lifeway manuscript? For the record this is daily. Research takes time; comprehension takes more time. Once both connect, my fingers pound the keyboard. At those times, and to again quote Leonardo DiCaprio in Titanic, “I’m king of the world!”

Upcoming Blogs

  • Errol Flynn & Louis Kraft; the connection and a view
    The actor Errol Flynn influenced my life in many ways and for an assortment of reasons. Looking back the most important reason was that he has been the most un-racial person that I have ever studied. In this blog I’m going to talk about my discovery of Flynn and his influence on me while discussing his performances that I consider his best on film (and this will include a few comments about certain films that will surprise and perhaps shock).
  • The song remembers when
    Music is something I’ve lived with and know (and it plays a large role in my life every day). This blog should be easy to write (and it has been) for songs often link me to a person or an event. In my last blog I announced that this blog would be next. Unfortunately (or fortunately for me) this blog continues to grow and grow as there are musicians and composers and singers that are with me all the time. Their music impacts me almost every day, but some compositions and performances stand out as they have influenced my life in one way or another. … At this point in my life everything is important: Being a good husband, a good father, a good writer, and continuing to “walk” this earth. … Since my time has become short—very short time-wise—I’m trying to cut down the gaps between blogs with shorter ones that deal with the immediacy of my day-to-day life; thus the current blog and the upcoming Flynn blog.
  • Ongoing Sand Creek and PSK updates
    With everything basically falling into place for The Discovery (there is still work but it’ll be easy in comparison to what has been completed), Sand Creek and the Tragic End of a Lifeway will dominate my writing world. That means that it is up-front-and-center seven days a week, and that everything else (finishing The Discovery; blogs; research and writing on Errol & Olivia, that is, Flynn and de Havilland; Kit Carson nonfiction and fiction research; and taking care of the business portion of my writing life) is secondary. As time moves forward variations on this series of blogs will update you on the manuscript’s status, that is what I’m doing as I piece the tragic end of the Cheyenne’s lifeway together (as well as completing the other listed blogs, all of which will be large). Oh, as Pailin has been a headliner in many of my blogs but has had a smaller presence of late, it is also my intention to bring back the leading player in my life.
  • A Louis Kraft walkabout in Thailand, Cheyenne Indians, and a dark glimpse into the future
    This blog is currently being drafted, but due to the length it will probably be broken into two blogs (and hopefully not three). My blogs are always personal, but this blog will be doubly so, for it will touch upon a subject that I have hidden for years but now must confront.
  • Unscrupulous writer-historians and how they dupe their readers
    I’ve struggled trying to decide if I should be vague or be specific and take people to task who push their agendas at the cost of truth. They create fictions and lies and often their cited documentation is a fabrication or worse. There is a war going on and I’m in the middle of it. If I opt for the second approach all hell will break out (at least for me).
    •  It is now looking like this blog will become two blogs: 1) Indian wars, and 2) Film history. Reason: Information blasted over social media often deals with my very small world of historical research and writing. Some of the information I’m stumbling upon online and reading in printed form is shocking. Unfortunately people (I can’t call them historians; if I did I would choke) gobble up this misinformation and reprint it as if it is fact.

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

Website & blogs © Louis Kraft 2013-2018

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

Click on an image to expand it


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

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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.

Pailin, LK, and an upcoming date with our future

 Website & blogs © Louis Kraft 2013-2018
Contact Kraft at writerkraft@gmail.com or comment at the end of the blog
As in the past, click on an image to expand it


Those of you that have read some of the blogs, know that I interlace a lot of personal information into the blogs. The reason is twofold: 1) To add life and spice to the blogs, and 2) To document information for a memoir that I’m writing.

What follows is 100 percent personal. It is from the heart, and it is in preparation for perhaps the most important meeting of my entire life.

**********

I have introduced and discussed Pailin in previous blogs. If you’ve read these blogs you know how we met and how that chance meeting altered both of our lives.

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Pailin in the front yard of Tujunga House, shortly after she moved in (17nov13). Last year 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)

Our date with U.S. Immigration is a day away, on August 11. It is a one-shot deal, and will play a major role in our future. We succeed or we fail in our quest to obtain Pailin’s Green Card. If we fail, from what I understand we’ll have an opportunity to appeal our case. To date, I know no one that has won through appeals. As we have two wonderful friends who must overcome this hurdle (and we pray for their success every day), we know what the odds become if we stumble on August 11. This date was supposed to have been in mid-September at the earliest, and everything I did was geared toward that time. About a week after I completed my first round of research at the Braun Research Library, Autry National Center (Los Angeles, Ca.), the unanticipated change of date arrived. I have been under the gun ever since, and let me tell you I am dragging and feeling it now big time. I can’t remember the last time I felt stress but at the moment it is gobbling me up on a daily basis.

That said, and with the hope that this blog doesn’t perturb Immigration, I am giving you a quick introduction to this special lady that I met on June 15, 2013, and who has become my best friend, my love, and my wife.

“No way, never”

In June 2013 I set up a dinner party with four friends (Robert and Annette Florczak, and Greg and Nam Maradei). Robert is writing what is going to be an exceptional book about Errol Flynn and Greg is a Flynn fan. I met both of them and their very pretty wives earlier in this century during Flynn events that brought us together.

florczak&maradei_15jun2013Robert and Annette have become two of my best friends in LA. Greg is a delight to know; bright, funny, and always focused and interested in Flynn, Olivia de Havilland, and the Indian wars. Nam is another story. She is absolutely gorgeous, funny, and a person I really enjoy knowing. At the moment I think I’m on the wrong side of her good side. I could explain the reasons, but I’m not going to.

As the dinner neared Nam approached me in regards to her bringing a coworker to the dinner. It was going to be for five people as I had not had a girlfriend since mid-2011. I said, “No thanks; I’m not interested.” I think she was angry and I asked Greg about this. “No,” he said, “Nam doesn’t get angry.” I gave in and told her to invite her friend. Nam told me that she’d ask her. As it turned out, her friend also demurred. Like with me, Nam pushed until the lady agreed to join the dinner party.

After she had a yes, Nam contacted me and told me that the additional guest asked what she could bring. I said: “The salmon, the potatoes, the salad, the bread, and the wine.” BTW, that was what I served. “Very funny,” Nam said. “What can she bring?” “Just herself,” I replied.

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Nam Maradei and Pailin in the backyard of Tujunga House on 15jun13. (photo © Pailin Subanna-Kraft & Louis Kraft 2013)

On the 15th I posted a sign on the front door. “Clothing is optional in this house.” It was a joke, but you’ve got to know I love pulling people’s legs. Robert (who had visited previously) and Annette arrived first. While Robert and I showed Annette the house Greg and company arrived. I answered the door. Greg was on the steps, Nam on the walkway, and the lady behind her. The lady held a vase of orchids. My eyes zeroed in on her. My opinion then and now was and is: “Wow!”

The exploration of the house continued. At one point the lady spoke to Nam in Thai (Nam is Thai and so is the lady). “Whoa-whoa, wait! What did you say?” The question was ignored. I finally asked what the lady preferred to be called as I had heard three names. She said, “Nuch.” “Nuch it is,” I said. (Note that after we got to know each other and we began to deal with documentation that “Pailin,” as it is her real name, came into use; and as I like “Pailin” better, it became what I call her.) We returned to the living room and talked and joked and took some pictures (at the time I had an antique Cannon film camera). Everyone wanted to see the backyard and I led the exodus outside. Although I am changing the front into a desert landscape in the backyard is still basically a garden. The entire yard is enclosed by bushes and trees which give complete privacy. … More pictures and talk and I had to return to the kitchen to prepare the food. … The salmon and potatoes were cooking but I had to chop the salad and make the dressing.

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This is the only photo I have of Pailin and myself that was taken (off her phone) on 15jun13. We are with our good friends Annette & Robert Florczak. The orchids that Pailin brought are in the foreground. (photo © Pailin Subanna-Kraft & Louis Kraft 2013)

After dinner Greg wanted Pailin to kiss me. This was something that she didn’t want to do (and I now know absolutely why) and she refused—which I totally agreed with. Why should two people who don’t know each other kiss? Pailin was quiet and yet firm in her refusal and this was something that I really liked. I also said “no” but to no avail and Robert spoke up, backing Pailin’s refusal. Eventually Greg realized that no one was going to kiss. For me, this was the turning point in a meeting that I didn’t want to happen. I saw a pretty woman who had a limited knowledge of the English language and yet she had a quiet control over her life. I liked what I saw and decided that I wanted to see her again. Luckily Nam pushed and Pailin and I shared phone numbers and Facebook addresses.

Greg then insisted that I give a demonstration with the sword. Not anticipated and not wanted but I agreed. Later that evening I removed my socks (Tujunga House is shoeless), gave a demonstration, and shocked both Annette and Pailin, who were on the couch. Both shrank back in fear. Not my intention.

It was time for everyone to leave. Pailin came with Nam and Greg, and as the driveway is sometimes rough to back out onto the street I offered to signal when all was clear. Numerous attempts to get Greg out of the driveway failed. Finally Pailin stepped from the car. “Nam and Greg asked if I like you, and they said that if I do that I should hug you goodbye.” We hugged.

I had posted the following words on Facebook on June 17, 2013:

“Nervously I said ‘yes,’ [to Nam’s request] but whatever the future brings it was a good ‘yes,’ for I had a terrific day/evening w/five people—five friends. I’ve done a fair amount of talking about Indian wars friends on the blog, but the next one will deal with the key friends in my L.A. life … “

The beginning

A day or so after the dinner party I contacted Pailin about seeing her again. She said, “I don’t know. I’ll get back to you.” She did, a day or so later, and her answer was positive. We decided upon Thursday.

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On Thursday we drove to Santa Monica to explore the cliffs above the beach. The staircase down to the beach, the beach, the pier boardwalk, and eventually the Santa Monica open mall, which led us to a Thai restaurant. We got to know each other. We joked, we took pictures, we had fun as we explored. I found a human being who was frail and yet an adventurer, I found a lady who was shy and yet open, and most important I found a person I wanted to know.

I had found a small shy person, but one who was excited discovering the world. In a previous blog I had compared her to the English seaman Sir Francis Drake and the American frontiersman Kit Carson. These comparisons are massive compliments.

nuch&lk_2shotSittingSMpierCROP_20jun13_wsWe had a language barrier that we dealt with and we enjoyed each others company. Pailin was special and I wanted to see her again and again. And over the coming weeks we would see each other. … The Autry National Center and the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, and we began dancing the salsa to live bands at the Autry on Thursday nights.

We talked about our pasts and learned some of the tragedies and sadness we had survived. Learning of Pailin’s father’s, son’s, and mother’s passing within three years and of her desire to leave Thailand as she found it impossible to live in her homeland and deal with the horrific loss of her loved ones that lived with her on a daily basis.

Early on in our relationship she told me that many years had passed since she last loved someone and didn’t know if she could again. At the Autry she asked me to give her time, that she needed time.

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By then I knew that I knew someone special, and I did.

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Pailin in the Tujunga House dinning room (2sept13). We have spent a lot of good times in this room; eating, joking, talking serious, working on English and Thai words. (photo © Pailin Subanna-Kraft & Louis Kraft 2013)

There was absolutely no pushing. When we could we saw each other. We got to know, really know each other, and we became comfortable in each other’s presence. We communicated mostly with Skype as we could see each other and share our environments as we talked. We joked, and let me tell you this is one thing I’m good at—pulling people’s legs and playing games. Pailin gives as good as she receives, and she loves playing around.

The dancing at the Autry ended after only six weeks and summer drifted toward fall.

A tragic time

Pailin lived through a stretch of roughly three years at the beginning of this century that were devastating. I don’t know how she survived, much less created a positive life for herself.

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Pailin praying for her son at Wat Thai on 18sept2013. (photo © Pailin Subanna-Kraft & Louis Kraft 2013)

Her father died in 2000, her son in 2002, and her mother, who took care of her after her son’s passing, in 2003. After that her sister, who was a colonel in the Thai Army took care of her. At the time Pailin had a successful business. She had three restaurants in Lampang Province, Thailand (the Central Hospital, the military hospital, and the military golf course). Her days began at six in the morning when shopped for that day’s food and had it delivered. Her day ended at midnight. But the pain was overwhelming, and she decided that she needed to leave Thailand and find a new life.

Every year on the anniversary of her son’s death, Pailin visits Wat Thai, the Thai Temple of Los Angeles in North Hollywood, Ca., to pray for her son.

Our first adventure

I had an upcoming talk on Lt. Charles Gatewood and Geronimo at an Order of the Indian Wars (OIW) event in Tucson, Az., in late September. At this time we had barely pecked each other on the lips. I decided to ask her if she’d like to go, and when I did, I made it clear that she would be safe in my presence. To my surprise she said, “Yes.”

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This is my lady on the morning of September 26. She is ironing my pants (something I’ve done since my mother did it for me), and although I tried to stop her, she insisted. More importantly, you are seeing her as I see her—gorgeous w/o makeup and totally alive. She was probably saying, “Don’t take the picture.” For me this image is worth a 1000 words. (photo © Palin Subanna-Kraft & Louis Kraft 2013)

But Pailin wanted more than a trip to hear my talk—she wanted to explore. She indeed has Kit Carson and Francis Drake blood flowing through her veins.

We left LA in the wee hours of September 25, 2013, and reached Tucson by mid-afternoon. Mike Koury, who heads the OIW, kindly paid for an additional night for us at the hotel. That day we basically kept to ourselves before going out for an early dinner.


My visits to Tucson date all the way back to the early 1970s, and beginning in 1995 and continuing for 10 years for two Gatewood/Apache books. In 2012 Glen Williams and I drove to Tucson to see the disappointing Geronimo exhibit at the Arizona Historical Society and to explore southern Arizona.


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I didn’t have any photos of the talk and Mike Koury (OIW) kindly supplied me with two the other day. I gave the talk at the Radisson Suites Tucson on 26sept2014. The next day Mike and his crew of Apache experts led a three-day tour that tracked Geronimo and the Apaches through the American Southwest.

The next day I spoke about Gatewood finding Geronimo, Naiche, and the remaining Chiricahua Apaches in the Teres Mountains in Sonora, Mexico, talking them into returning to the United States, making sure that they reached Skeleton Canyon (35 miles north of the international border) safely where they officially surrendered to end the last Apache war. The talk is on You Tube: Gatewood’s Assignment: Geronimo.

Guidon Books, Old Scottsdale, Az.

After the talks the OIW members met for hamburgers, hotdogs, and potato salad, which is food we don’t eat. We made an appearance at the north side of the swimming pool and talked with friends before we departed to eat at a highly recommended Thai restaurant. The next morning we were up early and on the road. We had miles to go with a stopover in Old Scottsdale to see Shelly Dudley at the new location of Guidon Books (she and hubby Gordon took over after her father’s death). Good times for me seeing an old friend in a great new location. The signing of books and exploring the huge new space. Pailin was like a kid in a candy store.

Montezuma Castle National Monument

Miles to go and the Vette cruised northward. An impromptu short detour for Pailin to see her first American Indian ruins.

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The Montezuma Castle National Monument is a perfect example of long-gone civilization that is still available to view in a protected valley with cliff dwellings (unfortunately visitors can’t explore the ruins that are high above on stark cliffs). The Sinagua people, which were pre-Columbian people whose culture was closely related to the Hohokam and other people indigenous to the American Southwest. It is a wonderful, quiet, and pristine place to visit. Peaceful, beautiful, … I could live here.

Williams, Az., the gateway to the Grand Canyon

I had hoped for Pailin to meet two of my great friends, novelist Gary McCarthy and his wonderful wife Jane. It wasn’t to be.

psWilliamsCollageBorder_27sept13_wsThe temperature dropped by the minute, but still I was able to lead Pailin on a cool walking tour of Williams. She loved it. We ate at a Mexican restaurant that I like very much. Thai people cherish their spicy food, but this salsa verde was way too hot for her taste. BTW, I don’t buy salsa verde anymore, for the Thai version of it is to die for. She makes it for me whenever needed. If you haven’t experienced what I call “Thai salsa verde,” you are missing one of the great taste pleasures in our world. I often tease her that I’ll dip watermelon in it. “No-no-no!! NO!” she proclaims. I do love teasing.

The Grand Canyon … for a morning plus

You need to know that Pailin and I are two people from different cultures, that we have experienced bad times, and that although we are thrilled to know each other that we viewed our relationship during this trip closely. Mainly, who is this guy and is he for me, and who is this lady and is she for me. By this late date you can guess the answer.

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South Rim of the Grand Canyon, Az. The fawns allowed Pailin to get close to them, but when I approached to take a photo that showed how close she had gotten to them I became one human too many and they took off. (28sept13)

Talk about being on the road early and making the most of our time, we had plenty of time to experience the south rim of this American treasure. And boy has it changed since I last visited in the early 1980s. Pailin had visited in 2012 (I think), and she knew a lot more about it than I did. I followed her lead and we maneuvered easily and quickly to what she thought we should see.

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My lady and our mode of travel. We are about to leave the Grand Canyon on 28sept2013 and head for Las Vegas, Nv. (photo © Pailin Subanna-Kraft and Louis Kraft 2013)

The time was too short, way too short, and we had to return to the Vette and cruise at a fast pace for we had miles to cover in a shorter time than we had. Pailin loves to travel, and the miles passed easily as we chatted and worked on the English language, and to a lesser degree the Thai language. Not because I’m lazy, but because she has a great desire to master the English language.

Our destination was the Excalibur Hotel in Las Vegas, Nv. Pailin and I don’t gamble. So what was our rush?

The reason was a joke. Even though we had a confirmed non-smoking reservation and had paid in advance, Excalibur made it clear that when check-in for all rooms became available on a first-come first-serve basis. On the phone I had made it clear to the hotel staff that we would not sleep in a smoke-polluted room. We had chosen Excalibur as it was a location that Maverick Airlines picked up travelers, and they would pick us up the next day. This was of major importance for what Pailin wanted to do on the trip. And believe me, I bought into this 100 percent. We did not have a problem when we checked in even though we were two hours late. As Excalibur had no decent restaurants, we ate Thai food at another hotel and then went to bed early.

September 29, 2013

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One of my favorite images of Pailin, the explorer ready to venture into the unknown. (photo © Pailin Subanna-Kraft & Louis Kraft, 2013)

With Maverick Airlines scheduled to pick us up early at the hotel we got up before first light and prepared for what would soon happen. Both of us were excited. We had been forewarned to dress for cool weather and we did.

On this morning I realized that I knew a lady who had the same view to walking into the unknown as I. We were about to do something that neither of us had done before, and Pailin was ready to step into whatever was about to happen. Wow! I had never seen this before. The oversized minivan picked us up and we drove to Henderson, Nv., and the helicopter that would deliver us to the Hualapai Indian Reservation on the west side of the Grand Canyon.


I had worked on a film in 1979 called Raise the Titanic, and doubled Richard Jordan. I spent 11 days at sea on a U.S. nuclear helicopter carrier (will have to dig to find the vessel’s name, USS something) off the coast of San Diego (we went far enough to sea that the California coast wasn’t visible). I’m sorry to say that this is a forgettable film, but I had a great three months of work. The Pacific Ocean was rough, the wind harsh, and the vessel bounced like a duck toy in a bathtub. The director had a shot wherein a helicopter would land on the ship, I would climb into it, it would take off, and then land on the vessel a second time. I presented my price and the director rejected it; I would work for my usual cost. “No way,” I said. “You pay what I want or I’m not getting on that damn thing.” I felt certain that tragedy loomed. “You’ll work for your usual fee.” I shook my head. “No. Put Jordan on that frigging thing.” Makeup applied a fake beard on a sailor to match Jordan’s and my beards and he worked for free. I was thrilled when the helicopter took off and then landed safely on the vessel. That said, I had made the correct decision.


Our destination: Hualapai Indian land on the west side of the Grand Canyon.

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At the Henderson airport we boarded the Maverick helicopter. Let me tell you that cruising at 1800 feet is cool. Let me repeat that—COOL! Actually I would have liked to have flown closer to the ground but was told that this would be dangerous.

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We landed on the Hualapai Rez and began to explore. Pailin had had an introduction to the Indian wars, she had visited Indian ruins, and now she walked on American Indian ground. She had entered my world, and although she hadn’t realized it when she told me what she wanted to do it had come to pass.

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Pailin and lk enjoying the Skywalk. (photo © Pailin Subanna-Kraft & Louis Kraft 2013)

Like I said above, the spirit of frontiersman Kit Carson and pirate Francis Drake flows through her. She is an adventurer, an explorer, and she was in her element. LK couldn’t have been a happier guy.

The time was short—too short, but we made the most of it. We stepped onto the famed “Skywalk.” and we explored the upper regions of the cliffs on the Hualapai Indian Reservation.

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Hours passed, and it was time to return to Las Vegas and reality. Another helicopter ride and that would be cool. But a sadness hung over us for we both knew that our trip would soon end, for the next day, 30sept13, we would drive back to Los Angeles.

We had six days together. We had cruised along open roads and we had explored. We came to know each other—really know each other (without being intimate). We felt comfortable together. What already existed but to date was unsaid, we knew. More important, we knew that we wanted to spend more time together. We had our lives in front of us.

LK’s past and a peek into who I am

To keep this short I had been married once, and if you remember the Jerry Reed country song called “She Got the Gold Mine (I Got the Shaft),” you get the picture. It ended in divorce in 1992. A jealousy/hated/conspiracy theory (for almost everything) had unleashed a desire to destroy any happiness I might find in life. … This would play a major impact on the next 22 years of my life, and it hasn’t ended.

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I discovered 19 black & white negatives in 2013 that were dumped at Tujunga House in 2010 as part of two truck loads of boxes that supposedly belonged to my dead sister. Actually much of it belonged to my father and mother, and my sister had taken a goldmine of documents and images that I didn’t know existed. The negatives had blotches all over them. They were faded and totally unfocused. From the time of their creation or were they always this way? I’ll never know. As negatives for creating prints they were useless. A disaster since there were images of my mother, father, his best friend & partner, my brother, me, and my best friend at this time—roughly from the 1971-1973 time period. At the time I was writing a blog titled “A gunslinger in a bathroom” and needed something. This image suits me and my dark view of racism. (art © Louis Kraft 2013)

At the time I wrote for a company in the South Bay (SoCal) and in the 1990s I saw a woman walking down the street reading a book. Whoa-baby, she reads! This was my kinda lady.

In the fall a little over a decade later I dropped off a sport coat for cleaning. On that day a big customer of the shop, Johnny Depp’s then leading bodyguard, was present. We chatted. An hour passed in conversation (and the owner joined in when there were no customers). Two days passed and I picked up the coat. As I was leaving she said, “I will see you again, won’t I?”

Two Asian ladies, and two long relationships. Not planned; they just happened. There were other relationships for shorter lengths of time with ladies of other race.

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This image is perhaps the real lk. No fast car, no wide-brimmed hat, no guns, and no swords. Just lk and his iMac. Fully 70 percent of my waking hours are intense as I work on my computer(s). Oh, there are breaks wherein I walk around the house (or the yard) and talk to myself. Good conversations, even when I’m madder than hell and in a gunslinger state of mind. (photo © Louis Kraft 2013)

I bring this up for what I consider a major reason. My wife was white, and often other women (white and other races) have accused me of being racist, and only targeting Asian women. Some of these women are good friends, other women have been friends who may have been jealous and wanted more from me than I could give. This list includes my daughter (but her words are coming from her mother’s mouth). This accusation is incorrect, for just quirks of fate brought me together with the two Asian women listed above, as well as the other women. I have never been a wolf on the hunt. After the last long-time relationship ended, I didn’t ask anyone out for two years (and that was Pailin). My days have been long (doubly so when I worked for a company and met freelance deadlines, and even more so now as working for companies is long gone in my rearview mirror).

I’m not a recluse and I’m not anti-social. Actually I’m just the opposite, for I get along with people.

Enter Pailin in a way I never dreamed possible

Our trip made me begin to think about something I had never considered doing before in my life. Ever.

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An image of Pailin late at night on 16aug13 in her apartment. We were using Skype, and as you can see she is totally relaxed. I’m the little blip on the upper right of the screen. I only use Macs after spending decades using UNIX, PCs, and being introduced to Macs twice (the second time on my request). At the end of my tenure with Sun Microsystems I had a PC laptop, a UNIX box, a Mac laptop, and viewed everything on an oversized monitor, … ‘course when the network went belly up I would be dead in the water). You do not want to know my opinion of PCs; it is unprintable. (Image © Pailin Subanna-Kraft & Louis Kraft 2013)

Pailin and I communicated using Facebook chat (which allowed her to translate words before replying) and with Skype late at night (which allowed us to see each other as we talked), She lived in Los Angeles, an easy drive down the 170 and 101 freeways, but she wasn’t happy with the area, and neither was I. Her apartment was close to Beverly Drive and three nights a week music and loud talk blasted from a bar until two in the morning. Drunks were in evidence for at least an hour after the bar closed. …

In early October while we were sitting in my dinning room, hanging out, and talking about anything, nothing, the English language, Thai words, actually I don’t remember, I asked her if she’d like to move in with me. A first, for me as I had never-ever considered doing this in the past. Never. She said yes, and planned on completing the move on November 1. This started me on a major project (which still hasn’t been completed due to writing projects) of tearing the house apart. It was over-crowded for one person, and now I needed to make room for two.

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Pailin began the move on 18oct13, and this collage represents her initial delivery and work before going to her shop that morning. The other images represent a view from the computer/library to the living room (#1), from the library to the computer/library (#2), and another view of the living room (#3). The images of Pailin are in the master bedroom, and believe me she has done a great job of re-imaging this room. (photos © Pailin Subanna-Kraft & Louis Kraft (2013)

Stuff had to go, and for the next two months both the black trashcan (trash) and the blue trashcan (recyclables) were full to the brim. I still have a spare bedroom (my research room that guests or my daughter stay in) full with stacks of books that I hope to sell (some have been given to people with interest in the Indian wars that have helped me or are long-distance friends or in one case my great friend Glen Williams).

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Pailin in the front yard of Tujunga House on October 24, 2013. (© Pailin Subanna-Kraft & Louis Kraft 2013)

Mañana … or mañana or whenever I have time (and the spine is in agreement). I have been turning the front yard (that is hidden from prying eyes on all sides by shrubs) into a desert. A lot has been done, but much more still needs to be completed, including adding more stepping stones and small colored stones. Again, time is the culprit.

On October 18th Pailin began moving her belongings into Tujunga House. It was a fun time, an exciting time as we began to work at merging our lives. I told her to feel free to make Tujunga House her home, and she did. Although Pailin planned the move for November 1, she moved in on October 27.

A merging of cultures

My mother and father did not harbor any racial prejudice, and they greatly impacted my life. In 1970 I joined Volunteers in Service to America (VISTA). I had hoped to work with American Indians, but by the time the first week of training concluded in Austin, Texas, I had become a celebrity. At that time Austin rolled up the sidewalks at 10:00 PM. We lived in a skyscraper dormitory on the Univeristy of Texas campus. Everyone bought booze and brought it back to our living quarters (ladies on one floor and the men on the floor above them). We hung out in the bedrooms (two split by one bathroom). One night around two in the morning about 20 of us were still up and drinking (recruits and representatives that would eventually choose us). I said something to a white couple that I liked. I don’t remember what, but it was probably out of line. Suddenly I had a knife at my throat while I was held from behind. It was one of the Chicano representatives, and he didn’t like what I said. Let me tell you that my heart was pumping. Somehow I kept my cool and told him that if he killed me his cause would be dead and he’d be in prison as there were just too many witnesses. After about a minute he released me and the incident ended.

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Left to right: Louis Kraft, Sr. (on a Suzuki), Lee Kraft (on a Kawasaki), and lk (on a Triumph) in 1970 just before I began my tour of duty with VISTA. Until the last 10 days of my mother’s life my father and I had been at war. Those 10 days changed everything (she died in 1980 and he in 1999). My brother and I were close, very close, and the last 10 years of his life we played softball together on winning teams (he died in 1990 at age 33, and I have not yet gotten over his death). There are a lot of stories to tell here. Will I? I hope so. (photo © Louis Kraft 1970)

At six when I appeared for breakfast I was surrounded by people that wanted to know the details. What details? I was scared stiff and was thrilled to see the sun rise. At the end of the week we received a lot of shots and the Indian, African American, and Chicano representatives began to choose their teams (just like you do for a sandlot football game). I went early, but I didn’t get to work with Indians. I would work with African Americans in east Oklahoma City. Cool stuff; perhaps I’ll do a blog about this in the future. Unfortunately there are no photos.

After my mother died in 1980 my father opened his door to young people that needed a place to stay (and it didn’t matter what their race or religion was), and this continued until his death.

For years I had enjoyed being around people of different races and colors, but it was in 1990 when I landed the first of a handful of technical software writing positions that the doors began to open to people from around the world. It was a slow trickle at first but by 1998 the writing was on the wall, and by 2000 when I left the world of space, caucasians were close to becoming minorities in the software world. Within a handful of more years this had become fact. I couldn’t have been in a better place for I was totally at home working in a melting pot of people from around the world.

Racism was unacceptable when I was young, … and it is unacceptable today.

Pailin, like myself, is totally at ease with people of other races. We were meant to meet; it just took time before that day happened. She is good with my culture and I with hers. Our world would soon become a melting pot of Thai and American culture.

A new life for us

Pailin and I were already comfortable together and we didn’t experience any uncomfortable moments while making the transition to living together. Work on attempting to make Tujunga House workable for us would continue for months, and we still have a long ways to go before the house and yard are as we want them. The problem has been merging this with my writing workload and my spine.

Pailin is my lady, my love, and as my great friend. Vee, my friend from Massachusetts, says that Pailin is my muse. Vee is right, for she is. I cherish each and every minute I have with her.

Our main meal of the day is breakfast, and it is a major part of our day. Pailin prepares almost all the meals. I’m a good cook, but Pailin is better. She loves to cook and the kitchen is hers. Once in a while I cook, and this usually is along the lines of salmon or trout or skinless chicken with vegetables and salad. Pailin has become a wiz cooking salmon her way (which is new to her). Her Thai meals, which are very healthy are to die for (I mean, “to die for”) for they are “alloy mark” (delicious). Her soups are out of this world, all are good, but I probably have a top 10, and whenever she repeats one of them I point out that it is one of my favorites and I am capable of eating two or three or four days in a row. Her fried rice, which isn’t “fried” rice like when you eat out. Not even close. Veggies and sometimes ground turkey (which I introduced her to) or fish or shrimp. Alloy mark! We buy tilapia often. She cooks it and the following day she strips the flesh from the bones and mixes it with herbs, green onions, lime juice, and other goodies including chile (chile peppers aren’t just from the Southwest), and there is a bite. It is served cold with lettuce, carrots, cucumbers, and rice (sticky or regular or both). This became an instant favorite. There are noodle dishes, and rice dishes, and she can do wonders sautéing chicken or fish or tofu (we eat a lot of tofu, something I’ve been eating for decades) with a variety of veggies and served with rice. This is just a handful of the many meals she serves (and I’m shortchanging her on what she can do with fruit, including cooked bananas; especially the Mexican style bananas, which can be purchased at Thai grocery stores but for more money).

Thanksgiving 2013

thanksgiving2013_collageThanksgiving is one of my favorite days. I have a lot to be thankful for and I love the traditional dinner that I grew up with—mainly turkey, dressing, and the various vegetable side dishes. I’ve been cooking turkeys by myself for well over two decades (twice a year), and over this time I have made the recipe for cooking the bird and dressing my own. Sometime in the 1990s I decided to skin the turkey. By then I had also had a great Southwestern influence in what I cooked. Traditionally, per my mother’s cooking, dressing included celery, mushrooms, and onions. In 1992, my first year flying solo, I added Anaheim chilies to the mix (and it has been a constant for over 20 years). Turkey and dressing is one my favorite meals (and it can go with anything.

Before leaving Thailand Pailin had a huge restaurant business, which included a military hospital, a military golf course, and the Central Hospital. She shopped for and ordered the required food at six in the morning and then oversaw what was prepared each day (her days ended at midnight). Pailin is a marvelous cook; she enjoys cooking and it is one of her pleasures in life. I can’t go into detail with her cooking here, but she could easily open a restaurant that would serve superior-tasting dishes. My problem is that she can cook so many great meals and so many different ways that she seldom repeats a meal. My problem is that when I really like a meal I want to eat again and again (that is, not once and let’s move on). Without going into detail her soups and main dishes are out of this world.

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Our Thanksgiving dinner included turkey, dressing, rice, spicy coconut tofu soup, and water with lime juice.

Pailin and I spent the day together—just us. I cooked turkey and dressing and she made coconut and tofu soup and rice. We mixed and matched, and it worked just fine.

Some health problems hit me at this time and they would last for almost eight months. It would turn me into almost a vampire, a creature of the night, as I had to avoid the sun at all costs. The virus is not gone, but we have it under control (fingers are crossed) and I’m no longer using multiple antibiotics. That said, I still avoid the sun as much as possible.

An operation happened (not mine or Pailin’s) and I needed money to pay for it. I agreed to a contract for pay to edit, fix, and rewrite a novel. This evolved into a partnership. It was needed money, but the book when I finally complete it will be something that I’ll be proud of. My partner is a good man, a physician (and if you’ve seen some of the blogs you know him as Robert Goodman, MD), and if it wasn’t for him making a decision of what I needed to do in 2002 I would have been walking with angels for years (notice that I didn’t say hanging out with the devil).

December, good friends, Christmas, and New Year’s Eve

Many who don’t know SoCal or Los Angeles badmouth LA all the time. They do this without knowing the City of the Angels or Southern California.They do this without knowing what they are talking about. LA has smog, but it is much improved; read less than before (Denver has smog, Phoenix has smog—major cities have smog, and it depends where you are in that city in location to the sea how much is present). Definitely LA has traffic. It has worsened over the years, and it will get worse. Too many people want to live in LA (even though there is an exodus the population continues to grow).

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An early morn photo from the front porch of Layton & Vickie Hooper’s Fort Collins, Co., home in April 2012. I had a Ned Wynkoop talk in Centennial, Co., and Layton & Vickie invited me to stay at their home (about 70 miles north of Denver) for a 9 of 11 day research and speaking trip. I spent most of my time snowed-in in Fort Collins. That said, I had a great time with two people who opened their home to me and became my friends. Pailin could survive in this land, but my car and I cannot (both the car and I are surfer dudes; both of us would be found frozen on the roadside). (image © Louis Kraft 2012)

Seventy or eighty degree weather with sunshine and no smog in December.

That about says it all (if you forget the traffic).

Many people talk up the thrill of a white Christmas. Not lk. Back in 1997 a company in Boulder, Co., flew me in for three days to interview. They paid all expenses, including a rental car, and extended my time to over the weekend so I could look at property. To save them money I stayed at a friend’s house in Longmont. He was the leading engineer at the company. One night after dinner he took me outside to experience the temperature (my cold weather gear is a sport coat and scarf). He wore a t-shirt; I was shivering. “See,” he said, “not bad.” He had a thermometer outside; it was 18 degrees. After flying home the vice president said he was working on getting me a raise over my LA salary and would pay for the move. Before the deal was finalized he left the company for a position in California. The money offer was reduced and the company would not pay for the relocation. “Thank you, but no thank you,” I said politely. Although the Rockies had snow (the roads had been plowed), there was little on the ground in Longmont. In the coming years I would be snowed in during three separate trips to Colorado.

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Vee Morra became my friend at the end of the 1960s, when she and her husband, Doug Matheson, and I connected. Doug, an actor, also obtained his B.A. from the Theatre Department (now California State University, Northridge). Times change and Vee and Doug divorced, but eventually moved to Massachusetts to be near their son. I’m proud to say that they remained friends, and toward the end of his life she took care of him. Vee is open, inquisitive, and a true and loyal friend. She and Pailin quickly became friends on 12dec13, something I was thrilled to see. They are sitting in the living room at Tujunga House. (photo © Pailin Subanna-Kraft, Veronica Morra, and Louis Kraft, 2013)

Veronica, “Vee,” Morra, a good friend of mine from our college days and after visited SoCal from Massachusetts in early December 2013. As she was staying with her long-time friend Saul Saladow, who spent four years with me in the Theater Department during our college years (and who went on to have a good career as a film editor), I invited them over for dinner. Pailin and Veronica (Vee) hit it off immediately. This made me feel good. The four of us enjoyed a good day and evening hanging out and chatting. This was an evening that I didn’t want to end. Vee and Pailin have continued their friendship on social media.

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This is one happy lady. This image of Pailin on 19dec13 is one of my favorites of her. (photo © Pailin Subanna-Kraft & Louis Kraft 2014)

Pailin and my work on the house continued, but due to me falling behind on my writing the progress slowed. It had to or I wouldn’t be going to bed 24-7, but one of the places where it continued in a big way was in our bedroom. I’m proud to say that Pailin did a major redesign of it. It is our room, and it is her room. Although it still houses some of my important book/article material (including my work, Errol Flynn material, and Indian wars material not Wynkoop or Cheyenne Indians related), her influence dominates the room.

Christmas

On Christmas Pailin shared gifts and our love. We spent the day together quietly (and I was one with the birth of Jesus). We ate Thai food that Pailin cooked on this day (the reason follows). A good day for both of us enjoying our environment.

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Pete and Nina Senoff came over to hang out and share a Christmas dinner on 26dec13. (photo © Pailin Subanna-Kraft, Louis Kraft, Pete & Nina Senoff, 2013)

The next day we again celebrated Christmas, but with two good friends, Pete and Nina Senoff, who came over that evening. I cooked turkey and dressing with Anaheim chile and Pailin and Nina cooked Thai food. All three of us attempted to keep the spices as mellow as possible. Pete, whose stomach can’t handle food with even a hint of fire in it, avoided everything spicy.

Put Pailin and Nina together and they are like sisters whenever together.

Everyone thinks that Pailin and Nina brought Pete and I together. We had gone to high school but hadn’t seen each other in years. Nope, it was the other way around. Pete and I reconnected in 2012, I met Nina, and once Pailin and I started dating I introduced her to them. It’s a good combo. A good night for all.

New Year’s Eve

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Pailin & lk at Wat Thai in North Hollywood on 31dec13. We moved through the festivities enjoying ourselves. We saw friends, and Pailin saw friends that I met that night. As the midnight hour approached the monks led prayers in the main room (second floor) and in a room on street level). This is an important religious holiday for the Thai people, and let me tell you that everyone made me feel welcome. I am not an outsider. (photo © Pailin Subanna-Kraft & Louis Kraft 2013)

New Year’s Eve arrived. This has not been an evening that I have celebrated in years. The changing of the year represents another year older. I also deal with a lot of death and sadness at this time.

For the Thai people, this is an evening of prayer and celebration. Wat Thai, the Thai Temple in North Hollywood, which I had visited for the first time on Pailin’s birthday the previous July, and had visited numerous times since, hosts a festival that includes religious ceremony, Nina and Pete attended, as did some of Pailin’s other friends. It was a chilly evening and got into the 50s. It also presented a mix of prayer and celebration that I had never experienced before. BTW, I should add that I have always felt welcome at Wat Thai; the Monks have always been open and friendly and concerned about my well-being.

Introduction to a writing world & the beginning of our life together

As I hinted at above, my writing workload is extreme and 2014 has been an exercise in not falling too far behind. Without warning an Immigration meeting that I thought would be in mid-September at the absolute earliest changed. Suddenly it became August 11. Although I had been moving slowly toward what I thought would be a fall deadline turned my work schedule upside down. And let me tell you that the pressure built as I scrambled to prepare what we’d present (while seeing my writing output hit the skids). The growing pressure to prepare properly for our interview with Immigration on August 11 has dominated much of my time for weeks.

The above means not much has been accomplished in 2014 (as far as getting closer to book deliveries). See below for a current status:

  • I did take three weeks off from my projects to review a proposed National Park Services brochure on Ned Wynkoop (at the drop of a hat).
  • Writer/historian Jeff Barnes asked me to complete an interview for him (he posted it on his blog; An Interview with Author/Historian Louis Kraft).
  • Good Sand Creek research has been partially completed at the Braun Research Library (Autry National Center) but a lot more is to come.
  • Writing continues on Sand Creek and the Tragic End of a Lifeway manuscript (although good progress content wise, I’m down on word count). This will change after the Immigration interview.
  • Great progress on The Discovery, the medical malpractice novel I’m doing with Bob Goodman (this, also, has been impacted by Immigration, but I will meet my deadline for the next 100 pages).
  • The Flynn/de Havilland book creeps forward.
  • I have promised Greg Lalire that I will complete the Geronimo article by year’s end (it is scheduled for the October 2015 issue of Wild West).
  • I wrote two short pieces for the August 2014 Wild West upon Greg Lalire’s request earlier this year, and completed the copyedit process, which also included “Wynkoop’s Gamble to End War.”
  • And finally the blogs. They are mandatory, for they continue to link me up with writers, historians, and fans. They bring in information and will hopefully result in additional work. Let me tell you that writing them and doing the photos/art/design is not a two-day project. I have a great friend in Denton, Texas, Glen Williams, who provides editorial comments when he can.

Pailin gives me room when I need to get something done when she is home. She never complains, and wants me to succeed.

Add the painting projects inside the house (not to mention the removal of stacks of books), the ongoing yard work (it is a jungle), and work to complete turning the front yard into a desert, and I just do not have enough hours in the day. … Also add that I spend about three hours a day that is geared toward me walking and sleeping.

But in spite of all of the above, Pailin and my lives continue in what I can only call an exploration of two lives and an ongoing friendship and bliss than neither of us had experienced before. She is like no other person I have known before. Every day is new and different and is based upon the bond that we took care to create slowly.

The importance of February 14

Before 2013 drew to a close Pailin and I had discussed marriage, and us remaining together for all time. She was my lady, my life, my best friend in ways totally different from any person I had ever known before.

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This is Louis Kraft, Sr., at a dinner party at my Thousand Oaks, Ca., home in summer 1991. He is sitting by the pool. A half block walk and you entered the Santa Monica Mountains. I have always liked dinner parties and over the years have hosted many. When my dad was alive he was always invited. My sister, her husband, and her two step-sons were present, as was my brother’s most-important lady in his life and her new husband (a great guy, who worked as a grip in film production), my great bud Jerry Argabrite and wonderful wife, Sue, and his son Jason, and my daughter Marissa rounded out the guests. M’s mother? She didn’t make an appearance. She was upstairs avoiding the event—supposedly sick. At this time I also owned a house in Encino, Ca. If you remember the song at the beginning of this blog, that time was about to happen times 10. (photo © Louis Kraft 1991)

I had thought that we’d marry in late spring or during the summer. Pailin wanted to marry on Valentine’s Day (February 14). I told her that this was not the best day in my life. Although my father and I had been at war for our entire lives (this is memoir stuff) he was always there for me. When my mother (his wife) went into the hospital for the last time on December 26, 1979, we spent every waking hour together with her until she died 10 days later. This ended our war. We became friends and bonded as I had never done before or since. When my younger brother died tragically 10 years later it was just him and me. He had a daughter, my sister, but she was out for herself. She had no clue her mother was dying, didn’t know her brother, and again had no clue her father was dying. I warned her two days before he died that the end was at hand, and on that fatal day I left over 30 unanswered messages on her phones. I took care of my father the last five-six years of his life, and our friendship and love grew. In the wee hours of February 15 my phone messages were answered. Defending her reason for ignoring my initial comment that our father would die, my sister said, “I didn’t believe you.” It was more than that; she had her weekend planned. My father died on Sunday, February 14, 1999.

February 14, 2014

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Pailin and I arrived late at the Albertson Chapel, having been caught in traffic. This image was taken shortly after we arrived. Left to right foreground: Sabrina Subanna, Kobie Poopan, Annie Aunroun, and Pailin (left rear: Nam & Greg Maradei, and Annette & Robert Florczak; right rear: Jackie Vinai and Anna Pinij).

I told Pailin that February 14 was not a good day for me. I also told her that it could be a good day for me, that it could be my last day with my father and my first day with her as my wife.

We worked hard and made it happen. February 14 is a day I’ll never forget.

Most of Pailin’s friends are in LA (or in Thailand, as are her brothers and sisters). Except for a few, my friends don’t live in LA (they are spread all over the place). We kept our wedding invites small (actually 19), and all lived locally. They had about a two-week notice for a day that fell on a Friday. We have lots of photos taken by our friends, but there isn’t room here to publish them (some have been seen on social media and I have printed others for the upcoming Immigration meeting).

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I invited my good friends Robert & Annette Florczak, Marjorie Chan (a film & TV costumer that has been my friend since we met in the early 1980s), Pete & Nina Senoff, and Greg & Nam Maradei. The other guests were Pailin’s close friends, including Sabrina Subanna (her niece, and a very special person in my life too), Montanee Sothtitham and Kobie Poopan, two ladies I enjoy knowing, Caterine Jensin, Siwan (Mam) Techadi and her husband Chai, Jackie Vinai, Cherry Keawpanyo, to name some. Other Thai friends had been invited, but their bosses refused to allow them a few hours off work. You do not want to know my opinion of these two employer assholes, for it isn’t printable.

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The ladies having fun with a goodbye kiss. Left to right: Jackie Vinai, Caterine Jensin, Annette Florczak, Pailin, Annie Aunroun, Jenny Atchara, Sabrina Subanna, and Montanee Sothtitham.

Most everyone had to return to work, but those who could came to a reception at Tujunga House, including Caterine, Jackie, Sabrina, Robert, Greg, and Pete. Pailin prepared Thai food (herb soup, grass noodle salad, and fried noodle), and two of her friends (Cherry Keawpanyo and Pulsri Inwattanna) who couldn’t get time off created a Thai desert that they gave her on a platter (Kanomchan). Good food with good friends.

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Pailin and lk with the Reverend Fernando Howard, who had married us on 20feb14 (photo © Pailin Subanna-Kraft & Louis Kraft 2014)

Six days after our marriage we visited Fernando Howard, who married us. He is an Apache, living in Los Angeles. During our pre-marriage meetings he had told me that he studied his people’s history, and especially Chiricahua Apache war leader and mystic Geronimo. As you can guess we talked about Geronimo and the Apaches. He included an Apache prayer in our wedding ceremony. During our visit Pailin and I gave him one of my books, Gatewood & Geronimo (University of New Mexico Press, 2000). He was thrilled, and it made me happy.

We did not go on a honeymoon. That is still to come. Soon I hope.

April and the Errol Flynn connection

In June 2009 I was set to speak on a panel at a Western Writers of America convention, but my back went out. As it was a road trip I canceled. Saturday, June 20, 2009, marked the 100th anniversary of Errol Flynn’s birthday (he had died at age 50 in 1959).

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Pailin and Jan McNulty at Tujunga House on 11apr2014. (photo by Tom McNulty 2014)

Jack and Louise Marino hosted a party at their Burbank, Ca., home, a party that I would have missed. Jack and Louise only lived a few miles from Tujunga House so the drive wasn’t too uncomfortable. I know a lot of Flynn people due to my Flynn writing. But on this day, other than seeing friends I had the great bonus of meeting two gents that I knew long distance but not in person. David DeWitt, who hosts a terrific Flynn blog (The Errol Flynn Blog), and Tom McNulty and his wonderful wife Jan. Tom wrote by far the best biography on Flynn (Errol Flynn: The Life and Career, McFarland and Company, Inc., 2004). BTW, Tom has a unique blog that reviews literature and at times adds his comments about Flynn and his work (Thomas McNulty’s Blog).

David was a houseguest in early 2013 while he visited Los Angeles to see if he would move here. Good times as we bonded and spent our time chatting about anything and everything. Alas, he decided to make South Carolina his home.

Jump forward five years to April 2014

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Tom McNulty and lk at Tujunga House on 11apr14. (photo by Jan McNulty 2014)

Tom and Jan again visited SoCal to see the Writers and Illustrators of the Future Awards ceremony and see relatives and friends. On April 11 they spent some time with Pailin and myself at Tujunga House. Jan and Pailin immediately became sisters and the four us enjoyed each other’s company, which of course included Flynn talk. The time passed in a flash, but we did see them at the writers and illustrators awards ceremony two days later at the Wilshire Ebell Theatre in Los Angeles.

The Thai New Year

The Thai people have a number of holidays, but the most important is Songkran, their New Year, which happens on April 13.

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Left to right: lk, Belle Marsan Henning, Sabrina Subanna, Pailin, and Cherry Keawpanyo standing on the balcony of the main floor of Wat Thai of Los Angeles on 13apr13. (photo © Pailin Subanna-Kraft & Louis Kraft 2014)

Pailin asked if I would participate. Of course I would. This day, which includes festivities, is a very holy day with prayers. It also includes donations and gifts to the monks. We joined the celebration at Wat Thai in North Hollywood. Many of Pailin’s coworkers and friends also attended, and many of them are my friends now. Also present were Belle and John Marson Henning, who bought the Thai Swedish Massage in Studio City (it is now called the Belle Sabai Thai Massage), where Pailin works as a massage therapist.

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LK with two of his favorite ladies on the Thai New Year (13apr14), my life and love Pailin, and her niece, my very special in-law Sabrina Subanna. We are on the balcony outside the main room of Wat Thai. (photo © Pailin Subanna-Kraft, Sabrina Subanna, and Louis Kraft 2014)

There are prayers and there is a festival. Wat Thai is open to all and the atmosphere is always friendly. I always feel welcome. More, I’m always open to experiencing something new. I can’t/won’t say anything in detail here for honestly there is still a major language barrier for me. I try. I always try. And like Spanish, French, Apache, and Cheyenne, I have Thai words, … more Thai words than the others except Spanish, but this won’t last for long.

My knowledge will grow with time. It always has in the past, and it will in my future.

Flynn continued to dominate our spring

Good pal and Flynn expert Robert Florczak, who was present when Pailin and I met on June 15, 2013, saw that Flynn’s last A-film (and his next to last film) was going to play at the Egyptian Theatre in Hollywood on May 15.EgyptianTheatre_entry+RF&PSK_montage15may14_ws

Good timing for us as Pailin had the day off. I thought her first complete viewing of a Flynn film would be one of his swashbucklers or westerns as she likes action films. She had seen the end of San Antonio (1946) and Adventures of Don Juan (1948) when I hadn’t completed exercising before she arrived home at night (I exercise with film as it is a great way to study plot, character, and dialogue, and in the case of Flynn a good way to study his acting as I’m writing about it). She liked both. She would now see The Roots of Heaven, which dealt with saving elephants in Africa. Flynn had a supporting role. Annette had to work and couldn’t join us but Greg and Nam Maradei did. A good time.

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I caught a great portrait of Pailin in the upper lobby of the Egyptian sans the crowd as the film’s screening was co-sponsored by the French Consulate in LA before the screening. (photo © Pailin Subanna-Kraft & Louis Kraft (2014)

After the screening I immediately asked Pailin what she thought of the film. I feared that she might have been bored, but she wasn’t. The film had a wide scope with a good mix of characters, it slipped in humor and had the threat of violence, and unfortunately death. We saw a great color print.

She has since seen They Died With their Boots On (1941) with Flynn as George Armstrong Custer and Olivia de Havilland as Libbie Custer (this is the film that hooked me on the Indian wars). She loved the green onion scene with Flynn and Olivia, and since we often eat green onions she play-acts Olivia’s Libbie who lied about loving onions. Next up for my lady, The Sea Hawk (1940) or Adventures of Don Juan. I still have hope that she’ll agree to learn the sword. Hope always burns eternal.


For those of you waiting to see The Last of Robin Hood, those days are getting close (at least in LA). Robert, who functioned as the technical consultant on the film has let me know that it will begin screening in LA at the end of August. Kevin Kline plays Flynn (if ever I had produced a film on Flynn during Kline’s entire film career he would have been my only choice for the part), Susan Sarandon plays Florence Aadland (Beverly’s mother), and Dakota Fanning plays Beverly Aadland (Flynn’s companion and last love). With luck Pailin can get the night off when I see the film with Robert and hopefully Annette.

The writing world put on hold

Progress on Sand Creek and the Tragic End of a Lifeway has been slow as research has dominated the time allotted to this manuscript. June kept me at the Braun Research Library, Autry National Center (former Southwest Museum), at Mount Washington. Pailin wants to take part in future research trips that must happen later this year or next year. Her enthusiasm is infectious. She is interested in exploring everything, and is always ready to go.

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Pailin with Doris and Bob Goodman. Flemings Restaurant in Woodland Hills, Ca., on 26jun14 (photo © Pailin Subanna-Kraft, Louis Kraft, Doris & Bob Goodman (2014)

On June 26 Pailin and I met Bob and Doris Goodman at Flemings in Woodland Hills for dinner. Bob is the physician that I had partnered with for The Discovery, a medical malpractice story that is based upon reality but which is fiction. I’ve known Bob and Doris for about 25 years. Bob is my internal medicine and heart specialist and has played an important role in me continuing to walk this earth. Over the years we have become friends. Back in 2009 he hired me as a consultant on some of his writing projects. In 2013 my working relationship with him deepened when I agreed to partner with him on this novel. Although it is character-driven we are approaching as a thriller to keep the pages turning.

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LK with Bob Goodman at Flemings Restaurant in Woodland Hills, Ca., on 26jun14. Bob and I have partnered on The Discovery, and both of us think that it is going to be a page-turner. (photo © Pailin Subanna-Kraft, Louis Kraft, Doris & Bob Goodman (2014)

Pailin still has the ongoing task of mastering the English language. Let me tell you that she has made great progress. It is something that she works at on a daily basis. Word meaning and pronunciation combined with sentence structure. My lady is shy but once she meets someone she is capable of opening up with a warmth that to date has allowed her to win over all of my friends that she has met.

At Flemings Doris and Bob didn’t allow Pailin’s vocabulary or shyness to hinder this first meeting. 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.

A July 3, 2014, notice

Progress had continued on The Discovery, as it had with the Sand Creek manuscript. But when a document dated July 3, 2014, arrived work on both manuscripts came to a complete halt. Pailin had been notified that her (and my) meeting with U.S. Immigration would happen on August 11. Originally we had been told that it wouldn’t be until mid-September at the earliest. I had been slowly moving toward the latter date with my preparation. Taking more than a month off the anticipated date placed me in a tight spot in regards to what I still needed to complete.

At first I had attempted to continue making progress with the malpractice novel, but I quickly realized that I had to stop. Our preparation for the U.S. Immigration meeting is multi-leveled with the ultimate goal being that we convince the agent who interviews us that we are who we claim to be—two people who fell in love and married.

On social media I have shared perhaps 35 percent of the images that we’ll present on August 11. A number of them are reprinted in this blog as they help tell our story.

Oh, although behind on my upcoming deadline for delivering the next 100 pages of The Discovery manuscript, I will make it. Luckily I had initially set September for that delivery. This is still totally doable.

Bob and Doris will be our first dinner guests after the August 11 meeting is history. They had made it clear that they wanted to taste Pailin’s Thai cooking. They won’t be disappointed.

The Fourth of July

The sale of fireworks is illegal in Los Angeles. No matter, for explosions begin three or four days prior to the holiday and continue for days after the day of bombs bursting in air. I generally am a stay-at-home humbug on the evening of the Fourth as I want to hang close to the house with water hoses at the ready.

ps&lk_4jul14_2shotCollage_wsThe above is not a joke. LA is a fire zone even without drought. We are limited to three days watering outside per week (for us, Tuesday, Thursday, and Sunday).

Pailin wanted to remain at home with me on the Fourth as she wanted to experience the war zone (some of her friends gave her grief for not partying with them). The garage is detached and has a flat roof. I placed chairs on it, and we used an extended ladder to reach our perch for our surround-sound light show that would last deep into the night.

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The left and right top photos are views from the Tujunga House driveway looking east. The explosions had been set off from the middle of the street about 600 yards away. The middle top explosion is about 1/4 mile north of Tujunga House. The bottom landscape is looking west just before nightfall. The left insert is of a parachute bomb that landed in the brush in front of the entry to Tujunga House. Over 12 other fireworks of varying types landed on the Tujunga House property.


Trust me, the 4th of July is not my favorite holiday as I view it as little more than a fire watch. The police? Hell they get the night off (absolutely no sirens or patrol cars on 4jul14; on any other day at least half a dozen).

And July 5, 2014, which is a special day

ps&lk_PresidentThaiRest_3jul14-1_wsJuly 5 is Pailin’s birthday. We had gone to the President Thai Restaurant in Pasadena on Thursday, July 3, to enjoy an eat-out dinner and to celebrate her birthday partially.

It was a good night for me with my lady, who was oh-so happy.

On the fifth we were up early to eat and do our chores so that we could go to Wat Thai before she had to go to work.

Since her move to Los Angeles Pailin has celebrated her birthdays at Wat Thai.

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Pailin and LK with the two monks that prayed for my wife. The prayer had just ended. (photo © Pailin Subanna-Kraft & Louis Kraft 2014)

On this very special day she donated to the temple and the monks prayed for her. This is the second time that I have taken part in this very exceptional day in Pailin’s life. I know more now, but not nearly enough. I am now at home and relaxed in this religious environment to which I’m still only an observer. But it is a key day in Pailin’s life, and that makes it an extraordinary day in my life.

And in conclusion

Since February we have been working with our lawyer to prepare for what will happen on August 11. We are prepared, Pailin is totally relaxed with me much less so. That said, I’m always relaxed in interviews (tomorrow will be more of the same). For those of you that have supported what will soon happen, thank you. We’ll have our lawyer and interpreter present. Tomorrow will be a good day to live.

Upcoming blogs

  • The National Park Service, Ned Wynkoop, and an unacceptable approach to documenting history
  • Unscrupulous writer-historians and how they dupe their readers
  • The song remembers when

Geronimo & Gatewood together again + an EXPLOSION of opinion

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

That land of snow they call Colorado

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

Mike gave me a thumbs up.

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

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

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

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

How race has affected my life & writing

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

A lack of racism in my life

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

An eye-opening end to the 1960s

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

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

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

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

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

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

Post-college eye openers

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

 I have been run over while riding a motorcycle and have
taken a motorcycle over a cliff. … I have been in car wrecks, car chases,
and more fisticuffs than necessary.
You’ve got to realize—and don’t laugh—I’m a man of peace.
I just have a knack of being in the wrong place at the wrong time.
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An image taken shortly after lk left VISTA. (photo © Louis Kraft 1973)

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

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

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

Acting, more racism, a daughter, & cold turkey

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

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

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

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

Defending my writing

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

For those of you wondering about Errol & Olivia and future books on Flynn,
worry not for this work will also generate controversy.
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Tanya Thomas as Mo-nahs-e-tah (how the Southern Cheyenne woman’s name was pronounced) and lk as Ned Wynkoop in Cheyenne Blood (2009). I chose this image as it gives you a physical view of how I approach the Indian wars (and unfortunately haven’t written any plays dealing with the Apaches). Tanya is a great actress, and I enjoyed working with her. My pal, the very talented Tom Eubanks directed Cheyenne Blood. (photo by Dean Zatkowsky)

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

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

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

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

Deadly intent?

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

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

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

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

What excites me … and what frightens me

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

Only time will tell

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

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

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

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

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

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

Do I dare say good friends? Yes!

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

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