Errol Flynn, Sand Creek, lk background + Pailin & Louis Kraft marry

Website & blogs © Louis Kraft 2013-2018
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Ladies and gents this blog has been a long time coming. My apologies. As often, I am going to focus on subjects that are important to me. Hopefully the text moves forward at a good clip and doesn’t put you to sleep. And as always, I’ve arranged this blog to my liking; meaning that I’ve saved the most important—and all the sections are important to me—for last.

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The pirate Francis Drake, the soldier George Armstrong Custer, and guess who?

The pirate Francis Drake and the soldier George Armstrong Custer entered my life near the beginning. By the 5th grade I had discovered the English pirate the Spaniards called “El Draque,” the dragon.

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El Draque times 2

Drake’s derring-do in his private war against the Spanish empire terrorized not only coastal Spain but all of King Philip II’s cities in the New World. But, unlike pirates before and after him, he wasn’t a blood-thirsty murderer. Instead of butchering captives during a time of extreme religious prejudice he never harbored a bloodlust and acted with compassion. At times he even wined and dined prisoners on plates of crystal while musicians performed. Drake’s genius was twofold: He boldly plotted strikes against Spain’s empire that were implausible. and he could improvise as needed. While still in elementary school I saw Errol Flynn’s The Sea Hawk (1940) for the first time, and even though a youngster I realized that Flynn played a fictitious Drake (BTW the term “privateer” wouldn’t come into existence until a century after Drake’s initial voyages to the Caribbean). Soon after seeing Flynn’s Captain Geoffrey Thorpe in The Sea Hawk I saw him play George Armstrong Custer in They Died With Their Boots On (1941), which introduced me to the Civil War hero who would eventually become the superstar of the Indian wars on the American Plains.

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The quintessential Custer times 2

Like Drake, Custer was a warrior who also improvised. And also like Drake he wasn’t a butcher, and certainly not of Cheyennes, Arapahos, or Sioux. Unlike many Civil War heroes his fame didn’t vanish, perhaps because of his writing for he didn’t engage American Indians in combat often. He came alive when negotiating with Indian leaders. Flynn’s portrayal of Custer led me to read Custer’s My Life on the Plains, which initiated a quest that is alive to this day.

Two Errol Flynn films, both of which were fiction based upon fact that had been disguised. At the moment I don’t know why Drake’s name was dropped. Perhaps it was because Warner Bros. owned the rights to Rafael Sabatini’s great novel, The Sea Hawk, which dealt with an Englishman sold into slavery but who became a Barbary pirate, or because this film was created around Flynn’s screen persona—which I buy into. Regardless, they only retained the title, or in Custer’s case the production changed real historic personages and events into fiction to prevent lawsuit. After seeing these two films (and over the years many times), my future had been ordained even though I wouldn’t realize this until decades later. These two Flynn films have influenced my entire life. Swords, acting, race relations, and eventually my writing. Whew. What can I say, other than I’ve enjoyed many years that mean something to me.

Catching up with Errol Flynn & Olivia de Havilland

Much of late has dealt with Sand Creek, hints of a medical malpractice novel (a positive report will soon follow), and the ongoing spectacle of my life (yawn). I’m certain that many of you feel that I’ve deserted Mr. Flynn and Ms de Havilland. If you think this, you don’t know lk.

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You are looking at the magazine cover for American Classic Screen (January-February 1979),  a now long dead publication. Pretty cool artwork of Mr. Flynn & Ms. de Havilland from their classic film Captain Blood (1935). Of all the periodicals I’ve written for, the Weider History Group, which publishes MHQ (Military History Quarterly), American History, and Wild West, among many other class magazines, is the only company I give a hoot about. Eric Weider’s publications are first class. Period! The best writers write for the Weider History Group, and he hires the best editors, designers, and so on to ensure that his magazines are cutting edge and the best (by far) on the market. Eric and I have never met. You might call us long-distance friends even though we probably live within 25 miles of each other. Will we meet? I would hope so. In reality, probably not. One of his editors, Greg Lalire (Wild West) is a good friend. A few years back I had pitched Eric (who I’m linked with on FB) on publishing a film history magazine. He had the kindness to personally respond why this wasn’t possible (and believe me, his reason hit the mark dead center). Mr. Weider’s organization is the only company I’ll consider working for in the future. Will I someday? Don’t hold your breath.

I never desert my major writing projects. EF & OdeH are a major portion of my past, present, and future writing life. They’ll be front and center until I die. All I can say about my writing projects is “patience.” I have enough information to get my book on EF and OdeH published but this isn’t good enough. My book on Errol & Olivia is going to be different. For this to happen has and will continue to take time. My good-good friend Tom McNulty, author of the best Flynn bio, Errol Flynn: The Life and Career, is helping me with research I’ve not seen. He will eventually be one of my key reviewers of the manuscript. With luck Tom and his beautiful wife Jan will someday be Pailin and my guests. Good-good friend Robert Florczak, who with pretty wife Annette, lives minutes from Tujunga House. Robert is working on an extraordinary book on Flynn. Our relative closeness and friendship allows us to have fun while also sharing and learning from each other’s knowledge and interpretations. There is a third person who is also a wonderland of knowledge and great understanding of Mr. Flynn, good friend David DeWitt. Unfortunately David lives next to the other ocean that touches the U.S. in South Carolina.

deWitt_floczak_mcNulty_feb2014For the record Errol & Olivia research is ongoing, as is the quest to understand what the facts provide. Sometimes this is difficult for at times facts can be misleading. That said, when something pops out of nowhere but is invaluable to the manuscript it gets inserted immediately. I have learned from the past that a golden nugget can be forgotten (for outlines don’t leave room for treasures discovered during the quest for knowledge as often one didn’t know they existed until found).

I’ve already talked about how some of Errol & Olivia will be handled in earlier blogs, and without going into detail here you should know that the goal is to dig behind the realities of Errol’s and Livvie’s eight films. Of the eight films seven have a rich history that slowly developed from historical fact, fiction based upon historical fact, and in one case a major Broadway play. I’ve seen hints that the eighth film also saw birth from another historical figure, but alas, to date I haven’t been able to track this person down and confirm that he did indeed do what has been implied.

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This is the cover for the February 2008 issue of American History. At the time, it was the magazine’s best selling issue (I have no idea if this is still true). This issue included my cover story: “Custer: The Truth Behind the Silver Screen Myth.” Although about Custer, the leading player in the story was Errol Flynn (it was the third of four articles that have been published about Flynn’s portrayal of Custer by lk). In my humble opinion, this is the best article I have had published to date. Certainly it is important to me (for multiple reasons).

In the near future I must ramp up my search for this shadowy figure. … Warners had a knack for jettisoning a good portion of initial research. And as Flynn’s career soared, some of this (along with what I said above) is directly related to his film persona. EF’s onscreen presence had taken the film-adoring public by storm in December 1935, and Warners realized this immediately. After the massive success of The Adventures of Robin Hood (1938), a film that is still thought of his greatest role (although I disagree with this totally), almost every film that came after until the aftermath of the farce of a rape trial and even greater farce of Flynn avoiding serving his adopted country during WWII, his roles and films were constructed to give the public what it wanted and expected when the lights dimmed in the cinema houses. A notable exception at the end of this timeframe was Flynn’s Uncertain Glory (1944)*, which gave him a dark side (although still heroic and charming) and one of his best performances.

* Robert Florczak, already mentioned above, likes lists. I’m not too big on them although I recently agreed to create several lists for the August 2014 issue of Wild West magazine. Robert has coaxed me into a list on Elvis Presley songs and wants three more (a task I haven’t completed yet as I take lists seriously). Of course he asked me to list my top 10 Flynn films. Although tough, this list has always been in place regardless if sometimes the 9th and 10th films sometimes are replaced. Uncertain Glory is always on my list.

In contrast to Flynn’s meteoric rise to super stardom, Olivia’s rise to stardom followed a different path than his.

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lk with Olivia de Havilland in her garden in Paris, France, on July 3, 2009. This lady is so vibrant and alive, so funny and yet political and serious. All I can say is that I’ve been lucky that she has allowed me to enter her life, if only briefly, over the years. (photo © Louis Kraft 2009)

And like EF (who knew his value to Warner Bros., and who took an active part in forming the roles he played) she also had a firm grasp of what she wanted in her career. If you talk with her, you’ll easily realize how much she craved good roles, but for her—as her box office appeal couldn’t match Mr. Flynn’s—she didn’t have the ear of Jack Warner, nor the courage to confront Jack when unhappy. Where Flynn’s massive popularity guaranteed that Warner and executive producer Hal Wallis had to listen to him, Olivia’s main thrust to garner better roles (and this included not playing EF’s lady in waiting—although years after EF’s death she realized how great the films they did together were) was to reject a role and go on suspension or have massive fits). That said, she did have guts. When Jack Warner refused to allow her to try out for Gone With The Wind, she went behind his back to land the role of Melanie (for which she won her first Oscar nomination). Playing a leading role and being recognized for her performance didn’t win her kudos with Jack W.; instead she was punished. By the time Olivia’s seven year contract ended and she said goodbye, she was told that it hadn’t as she still owed Warner’s time for when she was on suspension (that is time without pay). What followed took 100 times more guts than it took to sneak behind Warner’s back and lobby for the part of Melanie.

And Sand Creek also creeps forward …

Regarding the ongoing struggle to understand the events that led up to the tragedy at Sand Creek, the battle, and the aftermath, my key person is John Monnett, a good friend and a great writer and Indian wars historian.

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I took this photo of John Monnett at the LaQuinta Inn and Suites, Denver Tech Center, Greenwood Village, Co., after we had both spoken at the Order of the Indian Wars Denver Symposium at the National Guard Base in Centennial on 20apr2013. As I was in Colorado for 11 days we were able to spend time together (thanks to our mutual friend Layton Hooper, who functioned as my personal driver in snow-blanketed Colorado).

John has always helped me, and has opened his home to Pailin and myself as he aids my quest to understand the people and events that resulted in the tragic event on November 29, 1864. This year we’ll visit him and Colorado (fingers are crossed, and if not then in 2015 if John’s invite remains open), track what I still need to see (including some John Chivington in Boulder), and lk will again take a close look at a land that I’ve always loved but have shied away from due to temperatures that send shivers up my spine. My guess is that Pailin will fall in love with Colorado.

BTW John has recently asked me not to turn my back on nonfiction (something that is possible if I no longer have access to Indian wars or golden age of cinema research). His request was heartfelt and hit the mark. Back in the Dark Ages I thought I’d write novels, but that changed to nonfiction (a decision I’ve never questioned or shied from). I love nonfiction writing, I love the challenge to make it page-turning, and I love the search for the reality of what happened. If I walk away, a good part of me will die. That said, I must hustle enough money to stay the course (and continue to enjoy 70+ degree weather right here in the USA, and preferably in Los Angeles).

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I created this dark image from a photo I took in 1999 to represent the Sand Creek village (this photo wasn’t taken at Sand Creek, so what you see here is fiction as related to 1864). That said, the attack on the Cheyenne-Arapaho villages at Sand Creek is a dark time in history, a time that should never be forgotten. I’ve used this image in other social media and a great friend of mine, Eric Niderost (a prolific historian) objected. Think others might have also objected. Not to worry for this image will never see the light of day with lk words that see print (a true statement at the moment, and hopefully always). That said, at times, I must keep dark images in my head as I move forward. For only then can I (hopefully) create text that is light and moves. What good is a book, or any writing, if it puts people to sleep? The goal is to grab people’s interest, their soul, their guts, and keep them reading. (photo & art © Louis Kraft 1999 & 2013)

Regardless of the progress on Sand Creek, the research is ongoing, and my mind constantly swirls as I try to figure out how to mix and match people (major, minor, and bit players) as they enter the story, advance the story, and drift off to perhaps return or not). The key is the flow. It has to be smooth and yet natural, and it cannot bounce all over the place in time. I’m a firm believer that action is character. We are what we do and not what we say. Anyone can tell a good tale, but if he doesn’t live his tale it isn’t anything but fantasy, fiction, or lies. When a person says one thing but does the opposite, it is the doing that is his history. Just read all the slop that is stuffed down our throats on a daily basis. Publicity, regardless if a press agent leaks it or I spout it is what it is. And that is nothing unless the publicist’s client did what was released or I did what I said I would. If not, and 100 years (more or less) from today it finds its way into a book it is an error only to be perpetrated again and again by lazy historians who don’t do their research but instead create (or repeat history that never happened) as they pull from a handful of secondary sources while blindly printing what they have read without knowing it was indeed based upon fact.

For example and regarding Ned Wynkoop: How many times have you read that Wynkoop attended Silas Soule’s funeral in Denver in 1865?

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This image of Ned Wynkoop has been published four times, the last being in summer 2013. I’m not a great artist. If you talk with real artists, they’ll tell you my attempts suck. Still I continue. Why? Sometimes I get lucky and I earn a few bucks that in turn puts food on the table. I need say no more. Actually I do, for my writing is little better than my art. Talk to real writers and historians and they’ll enlighten you. Why? ‘Tis simple. I do what I want, and I learn as I go. More important, I care about my subjects … and this is what drives me. (Wynkoop art © Louis Kraft 2007)

Fact: Wynkoop didn’t attend Soule’s funeral in Denver, but was at Fort Lyon, Colorado Territory. I’m certain that this error will continue to be repeated. Or how about this quote about George Bent: “George Bent remembered as a child in the 1830s seeing Indian herds grazing for fifty miles along the river [the Arkansas] near Bent’s Fort.” This quote is on page 87 of Elliott West’s award-winning Contested Plains: Indians, Goldseekers, and the Rush to Colorado (University Press of Kansas, 1998). The note cites page 37 in George E. Hyde’s Life of George Bent: Written From His Letters (OU Press, 1968). So far, so good.

Dust jacket for the Wynkoop book.

However, the sentence referenced in Hyde’s work states: “When I was a boy I saw the Kiowas, Comanches, and Apaches camped on the Arkansas near my father’s fort, and their pony herds were grazing along the river for fifty miles.” Still so far, so good. But—there’s always that damned “but”—BUT George B. was born on July 7, 1843. How many “so-called” historians will repeat this error ad nauseam as undisputed fact?

Writer/historians make errors and sometimes they aren’t caught until unfortunately in print.* It happens. Although my publishers have said they’d fix errors to date they haven’t. I have corrected my errors in magazine and book form when dealing with the same subject in subsequent books and will continue to do so whenever possible.

* Other errors can enter the text when in copyediting. For example, on page 182 (chapter 12, “Hancock’s War”) in Ned Wynkoop and the Lonely Road from Sand Creek (OU Press, 2011), while accompanying Maj. Gen. Winfield Scott Hancock’s 1867 expedition in force to meet or engage the Cheyennes (and other tribes) reporter Henry Stanley wrote the following about Wynkoop: “The Colonel is an Indian agent par excellence, of whom a slight description will not suffice to convey any just idea. He is a Plains man, and the best handler of Indians that has been on the Arkansas. The Indians have every confidence in his integrity, and respect him for the ‘heap fight’ that he is known to be capable of making.” In the copyedit the editor changed this quote from representing Wynkoop to George Armstrong Custer. When I complained loudly, she said, “Didn’t Custer put up a ‘heap fight.'” (the quote is a paraphrase). “No!!! We’re talking about Wynkoop and not Custer!” I’m not picking on this lady or copyeditors. Errors are made, and they aren’t on purpose. This copyeditor and all of my copyeditors have been absolutely first class (except one; no comments) and I have been damned lucky to have had them work on my words.

An lk attempt to improve research

The last blog dealt with Charley Bent and my quest to learn more about him for Sand Creek and the Tragic End of a Lifeway. …

The attempt to gain unknown information has been less than successful.* That said, I did learn key information about Charley that I didn’t know. I do intend to again attempt presenting another person on the lk Blog and OIW FB page in the hope that it will generate response. Most likely George Shoup (but not guaranteed at the moment), a lieutenant in the First Colorado Cavalry who would become colonel and commanding officer of the Third Colorado Cavalry. I’m good with his military record, but I’m hoping that people can fill me in with his personal life. I want to know the man. Fingers are crossed. This will happen in the not-too-distant future. … and if not Shoup next, someone else I want to know more about. Perhaps Dog Men leaders Bull Bear and Tall Bull.

* Less than successful is not the best way to describe my attempt to learn more about Charley, for the simple reason that he is shrouded in mystery and only surfaces here and there during his all-too-brief life.

Who I am

The subtitle of the lk website/blog is “Follow the winding trail of a writer as he walks a solitary road …” I chose those words carefully as they have a lot of meaning for me. I’m not looking for sympathy. Actually I’ve had a great life, it’s just been lonely at times. My choice.

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lk as Ned Wynkoop in 2012, when I represented him when he was inducted into the Santa Fe Trail Hall of Fame. In this image I’m leaning against the recently reconstructed building that Wynkoop rented while U.S. Indian agent at Fort Larned, Ks. I don’t know how well I’d do in a gunfight. That said, if confronted by a swordsman, I’d walk away untouched with blood on my blade. (photo by friend George Elmore; image © Louis Kraft 2012)

I chose the path I’d follow, and I’ve refused to compromise. That said, I’ve had no problem with changing my course whenever it was good for me. Again, I made the decisions and have flat out refused to back off from my goals. This has cost me. I can’t give you, or won’t give you, what ruined an early marriage, but I have had two long term relationships that I had hoped would be forever. They weren’t. This can’t be placed on the two lady’s shoulders for it is a two way street. It didn’t matter for two outside forces did everything possible to doom those relationships.The first lady didn’t try but the second did, only to give up. The outside forces gave no mercy and did everything possible to destroy these relationships.

After the last relationship had ended in 2011 I decided that nothing and no one would again interfere. This is my fucking life and no one else’s.

The year 2011 had two endings to one relationship. Looking back both are hysterical. And I’m dying to tell the stories. The words are going to jump off the page when I tell those stories. But alas, you’ll have to wait for the Memoir, and then only if I have the guts to tell the truth. Yeah, lk wants to keep on walking this earth in one piece. Read between the lines.

I’m good with the lonely trail, and let me tell you I’m perfectly fine when I’m all alone. I’m at peace with the world and with my brain totally alive.

The good die young 

They say that the good die young. My brother, my sister, my mother, Dale Schuler (my dad’s partner, best friend, and a father and good friend to me) died young.

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This is my father, Louis J. Kraft Sr., at my former Thousand Oaks, California, home on August 17, 1991. The house was a half block walk into the Santa Monica Mountains. If you click on the image to enlarge it you’ll partially see the pool in his sunglasses. When young, and after my parents purchased their first and only California home, they ensured I had swimming lessons and had a pool created for me. Throughout the years swimming has been a major portion of my life (and is by far my favorite physical activity). From my mother’s death forward we were forever good in each other’s presence. However, beginning before my mother’s early death, he had become the key player in my life (even though I didn’t know it) and this dated back to my college years. (photo © Louis J. Kraft, Jr. 1991)

There have been others. …

For the first 33 years of my life my father and I hated each other while loving each other. I should have been a man, as my father wanted, but I refused to walk that road. We were at constant odds. He knocked me out once. A year or two later, a fat woman ran me and my motorcycle over while running. She knocked me cold and left me hanging from a wire fence. My father was right there for me.

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The TD6 is a powerful machine and doesn’t take prisoners.

Later yet, while working for my father’s construction company I kicked down the framework for a swimming pool that I had just set when he was digging the hole too quickly with an International Harvester TD6 tractor and making it difficult to drive in the stakes accurately. But the next day it was as if it never happened. That was our life. I couldn’t be what he wanted and I had every intention of stuffing down his throat that I’d do what I damned well pleased. We didn’t connect until his wife/my mother went into the hospital for the last time on December 26, 1979. She died 10 days later. During those 10 days we spent every waking minute together and those 10 days gave us a relationship that would last for the last 19 years of his life.

Oh, we still fought, but the next day it was always as if nothing had happened. This man gave me my life, for he instilled in me the courage to do as my life called and to hell with everything else. This has been with me while he lived, it was certainly present when he died, and it is with me ’til this day.

 A day I’ll never forget

February 14, 1999, was one long day of hell.

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Christmas 1988 at the lk Encino, Ca., home. Kneeling from left: lk, Louis Sr.; standing from left: Linda Kraft (my sister), Robin Fried (my brother’s longtime girlfriend), and brother Lee Kraft. Good Times, and although my father and I didn’t know it at the time, my brother Lee had a little over a year to live. By this time my father was long retired and had nothing to do with his former company, BKS Excavating. (photo © Louis Kraft 1988)

I had been taking care of my father for years, and during this time I had seen our relationship blossom. Oh we continued to argue and fight, but we had become close-knit buddies. I spent between three, four, and sometimes five days/evenings (after writing for Infonet in El Segundo beginning at 6:00 AM) with him every week. We ate together (either before or after I did whatever tasks he needed completed; I hated the grocery shopping for that was usually three or four stores and easily cost two+ hours).

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Marissa Kraft and her grandfather at Tujunga House on Father’s Day 1995. Good times for both Marissa and her grandfather as she stayed with him before school and after school until I could pick her up. During summers she spent the entire day with him. (photo Louis Kraft Jr. 1995)

But they were good times as we relaxed and ate (most often food he cooked, but sometimes takeout) and enjoyed each other’s company. As the days and years passed he became weaker and weaker. His time walking the earth neared an end. About two weeks before his death, when he became too weak to move about, he entered a convalescent home, and here his health declined quickly. I saw him daily and our talks continued. At this time he told me: “If I had known that I would live this long, I would have taken better care of myself.” A day before his death he said to me: “I love you” as I left. This was the first time he had ever said this to me.

The above words were the last words my father said to me, for the next day (a Sunday and Valentine’s Day) when my Japanese lady (Cindy Tengan) and I arrived to see him he was no longer in his room.

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Cindy Tengan, a product manager at Infonet (now British Telecom Infonet) in El Segundo, Ca., on Cinco de Mayo 1995. We had met in 1994 when I still wrote for Infonet. Although she had made no attempt to befriend my daughter, she was a good person. My father liked her, and I’m lucky to have known her.

Instead he was half on and half off a bed in a room with other people on beds. Worse, he had pulled a cord that fed him air (the first time he had one) from his nose and it dangled from his bed. I went to the desk and asked for a nurse. After she got him back on the bed with the air in place I demanded to see someone in authority. “Keep my father alive!” The cold answer was “Show us proof you can demand this.” Cindy and I raced to my father’s house and tore it apart. We couldn’t find his living trust. Did he give me a copy? I didn’t think so. We raced to my house and tore it apart. No trust. During this time I had placed 10-15 calls to my sister’s home and cell phones and left messages with no return calls.

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This image was taken at my sister’s house in Long Beach, Ca. (April 1995). Although our relationship ended, Cindy Tengan was always there for me, … and without her I would have died 11 years ago. (photo © Louis Kraft 1995)

Cindy and I sped back to the convalescent home. My father wasn’t in the room. “Where is he?” “He’s been moved to the Northridge Hospital” (this is where my brother had been helicoptered after dying on a bank below the 101 freeway in March 1990). My daughter and her mother arrived at the home and in two cars we drove to the hospital. They took us to a room (memories of my brother Lee, for in 1990 the first thing out of my mouth after being taken to a room with my father was, “Is my brother alive?”) I asked the fatal question: “Is my father alive?” “Yes.” “Keep him alive.” “Do you have authority?” “Yes.” I didn’t have the trust that gave me authority, but they didn’t ask to see proof.

We sat in the room and waited for updates. About an hour passed; we were told that my father had died. After my daughter and I spent time with my father/her grandfather for the last time Cindy and I returned to my house. At the midnight hour, and after over 30 phone calls and messages to my sister before she returned the call (as it turned out, she had taken the trust without telling me). I had told her two days before, on Friday, that our father probably wouldn’t live through the weekend. She said: “I didn’t believe you.”

A June 2013 day

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Nam Maradei and Pailin Subanna at Tujunga House on June 15, 2013. This image, by lk, doesn’t do Nam justice as she is knock-out gorgeous (due to me kneeling and shooting up at her). Pailin is looking at me and her eyes captured my soul. (photo © Louis Kraft 2013).

I”m not going to repeat here what has been previously published on this blog other than restating that on June 15, 2013, a lady agreed to attend a dinner party at Tujunga House. On that day she walked into my world and touched me as no other person has ever done before.

I haven’t just written about culture and race, I have lived it. I love people the world over—past and present. This has been the theme in my writing, over and over again, along with that key word, “peace.” The writing focus has been on the American Indian wars. To repeat myself, this came about simply: Errol Flynn’s portrayal as George Armstrong Custer in They Died With Their Boots On and George Armstrong Custer’s My Life on the Plains (1874) introduced me to the 1860s Indian wars. Digging brought me to race relations, which has been important to me my entire adult life. And I have walked the life I talk, and because of this have been accused of being prejudiced against white women. This accusation is laughable. A pretty woman is a pretty woman and I don’t give a bleep what her race is.

When Pailin Subanna appeared at my door on that June 15 day holding orchards I sucked in air and damned myself for not having a camera in my hand. A coworker of hers (Nam) invited and then brought her to a dinner party at Tujunga House. As it was to be a dinner party for five, two couples and me, she had insisted upon bringing a guest for me. Neither she nor I, nor the lady (Pailin) could have guessed where this chance afternoon and evening would lead. Not in a 1000 years.

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This lady named Pailin was for me, and I asked her out (a first for me since 2011). On June 20, 2013, I picked her up and we drove to Santa Monica, Ca., and walked along the cliffs above the beach. We later descended the stairs to the beach, walked along the Pacific, enjoyed the pier, and each other at a Thai restaurant in the Santa Monica open mall. She was fragile but full of life. She later told me she had been told that she needed to open her heart. Although unsaid, so did I. This sunny June day was perhaps one of the most important days in my life, for it directly led to my future, a future of two people who dared to open their hearts. (photo © Pailin Subanna-Kraft & Louis Kraft 2013)

Pailin was quiet and yet composed and firm while dealing with things that perhaps should not have been said but were (not by me). I liked her beauty, but more I liked her poise and strength of character. Before she left that night I knew I wanted to see her again; I wanted her to enter my life.

Pailin had been hurt, and much worse than me. And she has also walked a lonely road. She was frail, vulnerable, and yet alive as no one I’ve ever encountered. She opened her heart and this led to us becoming friends, best friends, and falling in love.

We wanted to marry, and I thought it would be in May 2014. Pailin wanted February 14. I told her about my father’s death on that day in 1999 while adding that I was good with Valentine’s Day, as it could be a special day in my father’s life and ours. We looked into February 14, and lo and behold it would become an important day in my life for the second time in 2014, for on this oh-so important day in my life Pailin became my wife.

THE Day 2014

I hadn’t slept in two nights (and neither had Pailin). Some health reasons, but also our nervousness over the coming day (and there are things here I cannot say—not now and perhaps never for if I do it will unleash a maelstrom of evil; don’t ask for this is something that I can’t talk about).

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We struggled to maneuver through LA traffic. Luckily there was a parking spot on La Brea north of Wilshire and I took it, which probably saved another 10 minutes of drive time as we didn’t need to look for parking once we looped around the Albertson Chapel. We had time after Pailin dressed and before the ceremony, and while friends snapped photos I chatted away in Pailin’s ear. (Photo by Robert Florzcak; image © Pailin Subanna-Kraft & Louis Kraft 2014)

The day arrived and we were up; a glorious sunny day and already warm. Although tired, we were happy. Nervous but happy and longing for our new lives together. She cooked soup for breakfast. “Alloy mark!” “Delicious!” I’m a good cook, but when compared to her I’m not. Pailin’s soups are to die for. If I don’t have my soup to start the day … GRRRR!!!

We still had a lot to do to prepare for the day, and we crammed. We were due at the chapel at 12:30 and although we hoped to leave at 11:45 we didn’t leave until 12:10 PM. We had made the drive to Wilshire Blvd. on the Miracle Mile in 20 minutes, and I had later made the trip in 30 minutes. On this day it took 50 minutes. I don’t get nervous, but on this drive I was a wreck. I totally forgot about taking the 170 freeway to the 101. Surface streets, including me making wrong choices on the streets added time to the trek. The Vette flew on the 101 freeway when we reached it, but from there on it was bumper-to-bumper no-move traffic. Highland Ave. to Franklin to La Brea to Wilshire Blvd. in LA should have been a cup of tea. Fat chance. Try 25 minutes for a few miles (and often taking two lights to get through an intersection). During the drive, Sabrina, Pailin’s niece, called a number of times asking where we were. It’s too bad that Pailin wasn’t driving, for I would have said, “We’ve called it off.” Yep, I do have a sick sense of humor (for this certainly wasn’t what I wanted).

When we finally arrived at the Albertson Chapel 20 minutes late, almost everyone was there and wondering if indeed we had called it off.

No way! That said, I was having trouble walking. Surrounded by friends and knowing that my future was less than an hour away, I relaxed and began to enjoy this precious time. We were allowed 20 guests. Most were Pailin’s, and most I knew and liked (unfortunately some couldn’t come) … Sabrina (Pailin’s niece), Montanee, and Kobie are three ladies I’ve enjoyed knowing since meeting them. I invited seven people and they were all able to come.

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This image is based upon a photo taken with Pete Senoff’s camera at Lum Ka Naad in Northridge, California, on 25jul13. From left to right: lk, Pailin, Nina & Pete Senoff. I had reunited with Pete, who went to high school with me, in 2012, and shortly after met his bride Nina, who immediately became my friend. On this day, Pailin and Nina met for the first time and became instant friends (Pete & I were amazed at how well they hit it off).

Pete Senoff, who as editor of the Grover Cleveland High School newspaper, made my final year in high school a pure joy by keeping my image and words in print, which in turn allowed me to win office as Boys’ League President. Pete and I had reconnected a couple of years back, just prior to his marriage to Nina, and, along with Pailin, has made us a close foursome. Marjorie Chan, a film and TV costumer I had the pleasure to work with in the early 1980s (TV show Tucker’s Witch and TV movie Johnny Belinda with Richard Thomas). Thirty+ years, many caring talks and time together, and we’re still good friends (no matter how long the gaps between us seeing each other).

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The other four I met in 2008 (I think) at an Errol Flynn event. Robert and Annette Florczak and Greg and Nam Maradei. Greg is a Flynn aficionado and Robert (an artist and musician) is also writing a book about Flynn (a book that will be “must read” when published). Their wives are terrific and also good friends. Annette is perhaps one of my most caring and supportive friends. She is always there for me, asking about my welfare and offering right-on suggestions when I need them. Nam is a totally alive person and is a joy to know. Like Nina, her humor is vibrant and spontaneous.

I think everyone mingled and got along, but I don’t know for I was too high and focused on the fragile woman that had entered and changed my life.

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This is my favorite image from ps & lk wedding, and it is the only image that has been published elsewhere. (photo by Annette Florczak)

Everything moved at lightening speed. The Reverend Fernando Rossi Howard officiated, and although he had trouble pronouncing Pailin’s name, and suffered through me correcting him and other lk ad-libs*, the ceremony and wording couldn’t have been better. What was best about the ceremony was that Pailin and I didn’t know what would be said before hand, even though the three of us had discussed it with examples that we brought to our initial meeting, examples Pailin and I liked or didn’t like.

“Ad-libs” are when actors don’t say their lines as printed in film or play scripts, which are supposed to be holy. From my POV as both actor and writer, this is little more than BS for the simple reason that oftentimes ad-libs are better than the scripted words. … Back in 2009 while rehearsing Cheyenne Blood, a play I had written, as Ned Wynkoop I said lines that weren’t in the script. The director, my great friend Tom Eubanks, stopped the rehearsal and said that I didn’t say the correct words. “I ad-libbed” I stated. “Say the correct lines.” “I just did!” “No you didn’t!” “Yes, I did. Write what I just said in the script and we’re ready to continue.” He didn’t, and those words were lost to eternity. lk is one writer who doesn’t buy into the theory that the written word is holier than hell (or however that statement goes).

Both Pailin and I were totally attentive to Fernando’s words and in tune with each other, especially during our vows which concluded with placing the rings on our fingers.

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This was our 1940s-style kiss; don’t want to give too much away. (photo © Pailin Subanna-Kraft & Louis Kraft 2014)

When we reached the point where Fernando asked if I took Pailin to be my wife … “I said, “Kub-pom.” This garnered me a nice laugh from the Thai people present; I suppose as they were surprised that I used their word for “yes.” I hadn’t expected their reaction and waited until the laughter ended before saying, “Yes, I do.” In stark contrast to my tightness at our late arrival at the chapel I was totally loose and enjoying every minute of the ceremony. Pailin took the ceremony a little more seriously than I did. Where I allowed my emotions drive how I said words, she was quieter than I. At no point do I mean that I took our marriage lightly. This was a very happy day for me, and once entering the chapel the tension of being late disappeared quickly as I was among the seven good friends I invited.

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Just after the wedding ended and we’ve stepped downstairs. This is not a full group shot (don’t think any were taken; certainly I don’t have any images). From left: Annette Florczak, Robert Florczak, Nina Senoff, Pete Senoff, Praphuntri (Kobie) Poopan, Nam Maradei, lk, Greg Maradei, Pailin, Marjorie Chan, and Mam Siwan. (photo © Pailin Subanna-Kraft & Louis Kraft 2014)

Add that I am good friends with a number of Pailin’s friends even though I haven’t seen them that often; Montanee Sothtitham, Praphuntri (Kobie) Poopan, and Pailin’s niece Pakgirapa (Sabrina) Subanna for certain. Others I met for the first time, including Caterine Jensin, Jackie Vinai, Annie Aunroun and Jenny Atchara (whom I actually met briefly at the Thai Temple on December 31, 2013) were open and I felt good when in their company. Like my friends, Pailin’s friends are close to her.

Pete, Robert, and Annette shot pictures for me, and along with those taken by the chapel, I have a good selection to pull from (and believe me, their images although not shot with expensive cameras, often are much better than the official images … many of which are useless).

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A done deal, and 1000 times more important than signing a book contract. lk is one lucky pirate/frontiersman. (Photo by Robert Florzcak; image © Pailin Subanna-Kraft & Louis Kraft 2014)

If you’ve followed the blogs since I met Pailin, you are very aware of what type of person she is and know why I fell head over heels for her. On February 14 she was as always; that is full of life and enjoying every minute of it. I couldn’t have asked for a better wedding. It was a special day for me for now I am linked with a special person for all time, a special person that took me a lifetime to find.

We had a small reception at Tujunga House but we spent the time with our guests and perhaps only one image was taken.

February 14, 2014, was step 2 in our lives together (step 1 was June 15, 2013, when we met). Hopefully we’ll complete step 3, which has already begun, by year’s end. Doable? Don’t know. We’ll find out.

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On February 20 Pailin and lk met with a lawyer to discuss our future. Afterwards we shopped in Thai Town, and then returned to the Albertson Chapel in Los Angeles to see Rev. Fernando Howard. I hadn’t mentioned it, but he is an Apache. His marrying us was alive and had grabbed both of us (I had to struggle to prevent tears from flowing). Fernando is alive, bright, and a good person. I like him. During all of our meetings (and including February 20th there have been four) the talk has also included the Apaches and especially Geronimo. Geronimo, the Apaches, and Charles Gatewood have reentered my life, and although in the past I tried to parry all attempts to get me to return to the Apache wars, I no longer do. The key player in this recent reconsideration by me has been Lt. Col. Paul Fardink (U.S. Army, retired), who has become a good friend. I wanted to give Fernando a copy of Gatewood & Geronimo that both Pailin and I had signed. He was thrilled. Am certain that Pailin and I will see him in the future. (photo © Pailin Subanna-Kraft & Louis Kraft 2014)

Oh the writing continues. It will continue until the day I die, but my life has changed for all time. I’ve found that special person to walk through the world with me. Our lives have been challenges, but now joined it has become one challenge. It is a challenge that both of us are capable of dealing with and we’ll do this together. Our life is one we both want and will work at together to create.

Los Angeles is our home (it is certainly key for my Flynn and de Havilland research). We hope that this will remain our home for all time as we love it in LA. However, if this isn’t possible we’ll look to relocate in a few states in the USA (all are key to Indian wars research, and alas, several have too much snow for this ol’ boy’s liking). That said, they are definitely on our radar. Other choices exist, but aren’t for this blog.

Bottom line: I’m the luckiest fellow in the world.

Charley Bent, Sand Creek, and other Louis Kraft musings

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


As promised, details of my quest to learn more about Charley Bent appears in this blog. Musings? Hell, you know me. I like to meander. Usually the blogs are long, just look at the last one if you don’t believe me. This one will be short. I promise. So here goes. …. (I know, I know–please Kraft, spare us the meanderings!). Sorry. ‘Taint in the blood.

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To date you have been fed an overload on Errol Flynn & Olivia de Havilland; Mr. G. & Mr. G.; Ned Wynkoop, Cheyennes, and Sand Creek (face up to it, the Sand Creek story and the key players are going to dominate a good portion of these blogs until the book is published (as will E&O and the lk saga past and present until these books are also published).

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Various symbols that represent the medical world.

What you haven’t been bombarded with is The Discovery (the first in a series of novels that have entered or reentered my life). Don’t hold your breath, for even though this respite will be short, this story has begun to take control of my life. This can’t be, and I’ve made a point of allotting time to both it and Sand Creek and the Tragic End of a Lifeway on each day. To date progress has been slow on The Discovery, slower than hoped for but decent. That said, this week the characters have begun to pop off the pages. An upcoming meeting will soon determine everything in this novel’s future. This meeting, when it happens, is all important. BTW, even though partnering on a novel hasn’t been easy for me, it is a win-win for me (on many levels). If I do what I should be capable of doing, prepare properly, present everything that I’ll deliver, this will be the next published book with lk’s name on the cover.

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Warm temperatures will dictate the future. BTW, this beachfront is not located in the US of A.

My friends, not to worry, for Errol & Olivia is a major book for me (as are the 2nd book on Flynn and a nonfiction book on Kit Carson), and Sand Creek and the Tragic End of a Lifeway is a must for me (I can’t begin to tell you how important this book is to me). Hours, days, weeks, and months tick by. Time. It is the most valuable thing I have in this world (other than my lady and my daughter). I have taken a long hard look at the books I have written and those I want to complete, and let me tell you that I had better live for many more years. Of course I have every intention of enjoying every minute that I have with my work, Pailin (and hopefully Marissa). I don’t give a hoot where we live. LA—and I love LA—may someday be in my rearview mirror. The USA and the world beckon; that is those locations with sunshine, blue skies, warm temperatures, and reduced violence (I know that I’m asking for a lot). Hell, I’m a writer and can live anywhere my lady and I choose (even Colorado).

Back to Charley and Sand Creek

Progress isn’t as fast as I’d like on Sand Creek and the Tragic End of a Lifeway. Blame this on anything you want, for anything you name is the culprit (except for writer’s block; I never have writer’s block).

In a nutshell, the following is what I have on Charley Bent:

  • George Bent’s letters to George Hyde and George Bird Grinnell
    – Some of which I’ve found in Colorado, Los Angeles, and Yale (I deal with the university long distance)

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    This colorized portrait of Charley Bent is copyrighted. I’ve posted it in the past and hesitated posting it again as it will be included in Sand Creek and the Tragic End of a Lifeway. That said, it isn’t available to share or repost or use. I posted it here only as it is the only image that I am aware of that shows Charley in young manhood. Pardon the following while trusting what follows. I hang out with my lawyer, we party together and we are the best of friends. If this colorized image is stolen, we will sue you. (art © Louis Kraft 2013)

  • Two good friends (Gary Leonard and John Monnett) have supplied me with the magnificent digitized assembly of George B.’s letters that were compiled by Lincoln B. Faller, although the word usage seems to have been cleaned up from photocopies of George’s letters that I have in his own hand (his English wasn’t the best)
  • I have viewed the George Bird Grinnell collection at the Braun Library, Southwest Museum, Autry Museum of the American West (and will do so again, to ensure that I haven’t missed anything)
  • The three major government documents dealing with the attack at Sand Creek
    – House of Representatives 38th Congress, Second Session (“Massacre of Cheyenne Indians”)
    – Report of the Secretary of War, 39th Cong., 2d Sess. Ex. Doc. No 26
    – “The Chivington Massacre” (included in Carroll, ed., The Sand Creek Massacre, which also includes the two government documents listed directly above, of which I have printouts. That said, to date I haven’t searched on Charley Bent.)
  • The War of the Rebellion (Note that my previous research related to the Wynkoop story; that focus has changed and expanded and I know for a fact that I haven’t seen everything. That said, I had never searched on Charley’s name, but will soon.)
  • Halaas and Masich’s Halfbreed (Da Capo Press, 2004)
  • Hyde’s Life of George Bent (University of Oklahoma Press, 1968)
  • Berthrong, Grinnell, and Hoig’s books dealing with the Cheyennes
  • Father Peter Powell’s books dealing with the Cheyennes and the Cheyenne wars
  • Gary Roberts’ “Sand Creek: Tragedy and Symbol” graduate dissertation (University of Oklahoma,1984)
  • Greg Michno’s Battle at Sand Creek (Upton and Sons, 2004; BTW, I designed this book)

For what it’s worth, my library is extensive. Also note that I’m not asking you to look at the Wynkoop book (its bibliography is 10 pages, and a good portion of it deals with the Cheyenne wars of the 1860s).

Still, after all of the above, I don’t know much about Charley Bent. Half white and half Cheyenne, he chose his mother’s people. Why?

I know approximately when he died (November 1967; the 10th or could it have been the 20th?), and it wasn’t from a wound if we can believe brother George. Or is there a George B. quote that claimed Charley did die from fever after being wounded (I haven’t seen this letter yet but will hopefully have it soon), and if so why did George change his story later in life? The Pawnee bullet incident seems to be based upon a story published in an Oklahoma newspaper roughly a month shy of 43 years after Charley’s end (and it called him a chief of the Dog Soldiers). Details? To date piss poor. … It appears that Charley was one tough hombre, not someone to cross or face in battle. True? Honestly, at this moment in time I don’t know. In the early 1860s he turned his back on his father’s (William Bent’s) world and pretty much lived and fought with the Cheyennes. It appears as if his anger and hatred toward his father was strong, strong enough that he might have considered murdering his him.

Again why?

For your information, the Sand Creek manuscript wraps up with the end of the 1860s, so everything related to Charley is in the manuscript’s scope. Billy Markland recently supplied me with a tad of information on Charley that happened in early 1867 (Executive Document, House of Representatives, 2nd Sess. 41st Congress, 1869-70). I’m certain that there is more in Charley’s short life that I am not aware of and have no clue where it is located.

As I had mentioned on a previous blog and on the OIW Facebook page I plan on sending a book to the person who supplies me with what I consider the most important information about Charley that I don’t know (if a second or even a third person also submits good information that I have no prior knowledge of, they too will receive the second and third books (listed below).

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Having difficulties viewing this image? Click on it to expand it.

That’s right, I’m placing three books into this mix. I’m not saying they are great books (or pamphlets), but they are related to the Indian wars and have been in my library.

Why the generosity?

Pure and simple, I haven’t been the most social person and my research money isn’t what it used to be. I need to increase how I come by valuable information. And it would be nice to get to know people that have similar interests. Also, I am in desperate need of room, and I hate to say it, but I’m the world’s worst salesman. I don’t think I’m capable of selling a Sacajawea $1.00 coin for .50 cents. Anyway I have the books and it will be my pleasure to send them to you.

They are:

  • Crimsoned Prairie: The Indian Wars on The Great Plains by S. L. A. Marshall (Charles Scribner’s Sons, New York, 1972; this is a book club edition)*
  • Custer’s Battle of the Washita and a History of the Plains Indian Tribes by Jess C. Epple (Exposition Press, New York, 1970)*
  • The Honor of Arms: A Biography of Myles W. Keogh by Charles L. Convis (Westernlore Press, Tucson, Arizona, 1990)*

* lk note: The above books come with no recommendations. They have been read by me and in two cases by others.

Oh, and this is important. Everything stated above is to go through an email address (writerkraft@gmail.com). I will not deal with a round robin open debate on the OIW Facebook page or on the lk website. Use the email address.

One final comment: I plan on requesting George Shoup and John Chivington’s military records soon (there are other documents I need on Chivington and hopefully I can also obtain them). If I acquire the desired documents and have the time to study them, one of these two gentlemen will most likely be my next subject of inquiry. The above listed books, if I still have them, will not be listed in the next information quest.

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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La Fonda as it appeared in 1927.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Until now.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sand Creek (update #2), Wynkoop, & 2 special people

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


Well here we are approaching the end of August 2013. Some—actually most—is very good, while some of you don’t want to hear about (or maybe you do, but I’m not tellin’). As you’ve seen in past blogs I like to mix and match subject matter. The reason is twofold: 1) This is how my brain functions, and 2) Writing is a continuous experiment. We have one other thing to add to this blog, … my life again has balance. I have great friends. Some close, some hundreds of miles away, and some thousands of miles away. I’m lucky. But although they play a major part in my ongoing life and growth, my life requires two key people (there are no surprises here).

Sand Creek and the Tragic End of a Lifeway contract

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Obviously lk is happy, and this image represents my feelings. It was taken while I spent prime time at Fort Larned, Kansas, in September 2012. A lot of the time was spent with my good friend and Fort Larned chief ranger, George Elmore. He took this picture while I leaned against the reconstruction of Wynkoop’s home-U.S. Indian Agency that has been reconstructed at the post. During this trip I spoke about Wynkoop’s efforts to save the Cheyenne-Lakota village on the Pawnee Fork (35 miles west of Fort Larned) when Maj. Gen. Winfield Scott Hancock threatened to destroy it in April 1867. I delivered the talk on the pristine village site, which is protected. I also represented Wynkoop when he was inducted into the Santa Fe Trail Association hall of fame. (photo © Louis Kraft 2012)

Great news: In mid-August Chuck Rankin, editor-in-chief at OU Press, and I worked out a Sand Creek contract that is acceptable to both of us. Since then OU Press has sent me the final contract. I received it on August 28, and saw one final fix that must be in place before I signed the contract. I emailed my request to Chuck and he got right back to me to hand write the change into the contract, initial the change, and send it to OU Press. I did. Bottom line: lk is one happy writer.

If you have read some of the previous blogs you know how much I like and respect Chuck. He has been the backbone to Sand Creek for years, and if it wasn’t for him this project would still be floating in na-na land while I tentatively dogpaddled through quicksand.

Oh yeah, if you didn’t know it, the Indian wars nonfiction field can be a minefield wherein one must tread carefully. I’ve already mentioned key people, friends who will become my bosom buddies over the next three years (contract term begins on October 1, 2013, with a polished manuscript delivery date of October 1, 2016). Doable! I’m sorry, but no contract details other than we have agreed upon 130,000 words. Am only going to mention one person here—John Monnett. John walks some of the same roads I do (not all, for our lives have been different), but we have a lot in common. John’s got fire plus a good sense of humor, not to mention a firm grasp on humanity. My only regret with John is that he lives in that far-off land of snow called Colorado. He would be a perfect fit for Los Angeles (if he sees this, I’m certain his head would bounce off the ceiling in his living room and that’s a long bounce).

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This art by Robert Lindneux (dust jacket for Greene & Scott, Finding Sand Creek, 2004) is totally wrong. Every primary source I have seen discounts this art. I have total control over the images in the Sand Creek book, and there is no way this art will be on the dust jacket for Sand Creek and the Tragic End of a Lifeway. If the art director at OU Press even hints at this being on my dust jacket, he won’t have time to blink for I will be in Norman, OK, so fast he won’t have time to gulp in air.

Many of you know that Ned Wynkoop has played a key role in my development as a writer and historian over the years. He has not gone away. To the contrary, he will play a key role in the Sand Creek book. … As will Black Kettle and the Cheyennes, including—depending upon what I can find—Bull Bear and Tall Bull, and to a lesser degree other Cheyennes, such as Little Robe (and cross my fingers, Roman Nose if he drifted southward at this time), and Arapahos Left Hand and Little Raven (among others), and the Oglala Lakota Pawnee Killer (and if I get lucky and can link the great Crazy Horse to the central plains). …

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Southern Cheyenne Ivan Hankler. I met Ivan at a convention at Fort Larned, Kansas in spring 2004. We immediately hit it off and I spent most of my time with him during the two- or three-day event. During this time we hung out and talked (in his tipi and on the Fort Larned grounds). I learned a lot, but best of all gained a friend. This is my favorite image of him from 2004. During the event I spoke about Custer finding Stone Forehead’s village on the Sweetwater in the Texas Panhandle in 1869, and the peaceful negotiations that followed. Ivan didn’t think he could attend the talk, and I told him (and Kiowa James Coverdale) to attend, that they would be my guests. They did. Good times. Unfortunately Ivan has moved on; perhaps I shouldn’t mention his name and share his image here, but I decided to break the rules for he will always be a part of my world. (Photo © Louis Kraft 2004)

Those of you who read Ned Wynkoop and the Lonely Road from Sand Creek (2011) know that I worked with Cheyennes. This association will not only continue to grow with Sand Creek and the Tragic End of a Lifeway, it will include other key Cheyennes I know, like, and respect. Certainly John Chivington is a leading player, as are Rocky Mountain News publisher and editor William Byers and territorial governor John Evans. The Bents (William, George, and Charley) will have key roles, and, if I can find enough information, Edmund Guerrier will be featured. Indian agent Samuel Colley, Interpreter/trader John Smith, soldier/enemy to Chivington Samuel Tappan, and soldiers Scott Anthony, Silas Soule, and George Shoup (again depending on information) will have key parts. Yep, there is a lot of research staring me in the face (and some of it will be with people and institutions that I have not yet worked with). …

I can’t speak for other writers, but for me the hope is always that the next book I write will be my best. Certainly Chuck Rankin has worked closely to put me in a position to make this happen. We have played with a voice, and if I can control it, Sand Creek will bridge the gap between my earlier and later nonfiction. Will the prose border heresy? I hope so! Will it survive reviews? Ouch! Don’t ask. Only time will tell. Will the text be blue? Depends upon what I can get away with and what you consider blue. Will it be controversial. You can bet on it! Where I couldn’t push the envelope with Wynkoop, I intend to approach Sand Creek with both guns blazing.

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Here are some of the usual suspects that will play roles in Sand Creek and the Tragic End of a Lifeway. Ned Wynkoop and Silas Soule are kneeling in the foreground. Bull Bear is sitting left in the middle row and Black Kettle is sitting behind Wynkoop. In the back row, John Smith stands between Bull Bear and Black Kettle.

The Wynkoop contract allows me to write anything in any medium about him at any time; the Sand Creek contract limits what I can write in the future. These two contracts are both good for me even though they differ in what I can and cannot do. Chuck Rankin couldn’t remember how I landed the Wynkoop contract w/o limitations (simple: I wouldn’t sign it w/o an open slate to write what I wanted about him in the future). This future, in relation to Sand Creek, has changed. Chuck has rightfully stated that he must protect OU Press from me writing a competing manuscript to Sand Creek and the Tragic End of a Lifeway. I totally agree with this. I don’t know what I’ll write about Ned Wynkoop in nonfiction book form (most likely nothing), but I had to protect that. This nonfiction book on Sand Creek will be the only one I write. This piece of the contract was important to Chuck and OU Press, and I agree with their view 100 percent.

All said, I’m going to have one hell of a good time writing this book. I’m thrilled. Period. I’m thrilled!!! The next three years of my life are going to be a wild ride of discovery. And like Errol & Olivia, I plan on sharing some of it with you. And there will be what I’m currently calling “information exchanges,” but they will have a different intent. The E&O quizzes focus on alerting you to who they are/were and what they did. The prizes will be dueling lessons (hey folks, I’m a poor writer and must be careful with what I give away). Here I hope to dig into people and actions with you, and the giveaways will be books.

Mr. Wynkoop updates

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View of the building that Ned Wynkoop rented from the post trader at Fort Larned, Kansas at the end of the 1860s. It served as both his home and as the Cheyenne-Arapaho Indian agency. Due to space limitations this (or another image) didn’t make it into the Wild West article. (Photo © Louis Kraft 2012)

A quick update on Ned, … The next article, “The NPS Has Rebuilt Ned Wynkoop’s Indian Agency Home at Fort Larned” will appear in the December 2013 issue of Wild West magazine. Editor Greg Lalire and I have completed our final fixes to the layout and copy edit. I’m pleased. It should be on newsstands in late (?) October.

I still owe Greg Wynkoop art for the August 2014 issue of Wild West, which features Wynkoop meeting Black Kettle for the first time in September 1864. it has been in progress for a long time, … and for a long time I have backed away from it. Why? Honestly, I’m a piss-poor artist who attempts to sell only because he likes to eat on an almost-daily basis.

This Wynkoop art is important because this is, from my point of view, an important article and I need illustrations for it. It is also important, for if I like the final product I intend on using it in the Sand Creek book (It will give critics that claim to be purists another Bowie knife to fling at me. Sobeit!).

Sand Creek information exchanges w/giveaways

These Sand Creek information exchanges will be different. Bear with me for a short while. Other than a few radio stations that deal with new music in Los Angeles (and air Rihanna and Lana Del Rey), most LA radio stations suck. Probably 85 percent of my time is spent on news and sports talk radio. ESPN AM 710 shines.

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This image of Kobe and Vanessa Bryant appeared in the Los Angeles Times on August 25, 2013.

Of course ESPN is Lakers-centric in Los Angeles (Kobe and the Lakers dominate). However, there is a good focus on USC football, and recently—and I mean real recently (the LA Dodgers have been a laughing joke since Kurt Gibson’s miraculous home run and Orel Hershiser’s pitching mastery during the 1988 world series—a golden moment in time that marked the beginning of the end of their careers). Until June 2013 the Dodgers were hard-put to find air time on ESPN AM 710. No more. They are now challenging the Lakers’ dominance (forget the Clippers, for they are little more than bridesmaid wanna-be’s until they win a championship). Hanley Ramirez, Yasiel Puig, and Clayton Kershaw (who is quickly placing his name next to the great Sandy Koufax) have taken LA by storm.

Back to the Sand Creek information exchanges. They will be like the phone calls to ESPN AM 710, in that they aren’t quizzes at all, but will be prizes awarded to the best comments based upon subject matter that I make public. I hope this isn’t obscure. If it is, ping me and I’ll try to clarify. For example I might create a discussion subject such as mixed-blood Cheyenne Charley Bent. He’ll be an open target, but whatever you say that is controversial you’ll need to back up with citation. I’m not looking for bad and I’m not looking for good. Rather, I’m looking for discovery. If you’ve read any of my nonfiction books you know that I don’t shortchange people who help my research. Yep, … that’s the key here. I’ll be looking to expand my knowledge of people and events. Again, I’m not looking for good or evil, or right or wrong, but what happened and who did what. You don’t have to provide complete details, but I would like a clear direction to where I can dig and discover what happened.

My hope is that the above will be different and that it will generate responses from you.

This entire website/blog has been an experiment to find and connect with you. It has also been an experiment for me to find out who I am and where I’m heading as a writer and person. To date I’m pleased with the results. I have no intention of backing off and hope to challenge both you and myself.

The prizes will be Indian wars books from my library but not Kraft books (sorry, but I’m a starving writer). They will be books that I probably won’t read or use again. This doesn’t mean they aren’t good books; all it means is that I won’t use them again and need to add space to my home that has grown terribly tight over the years. When this becomes reality I will announce the book titles and publication dates along with subjects that are hopefully of interest to you.

The future?

That’s it, other than to say that Sand Creek will dominate my writing life. E&O will advance, but all magazine article-writing will stop, as will all talks unless I receive my full salary and all expenses. Actually a sad state of affairs, my writing affairs, but this is nothing new.

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George Elmore at Pawnee Rock State Historic Site, Kansas, on September 21, 2012. A number of cool presentations of people who played roles on the Santa Fe Trail were performed by actors (including John Carson, who portrayed his relative Kit Carson). Unfortunately the Kansas sun was deadly that day. (Photo © Louis Kraft 2012)

One exception might be a break to be a writer in residence at Fort Larned, Kansas (an invitation, if still open, that is of great interest to me).

George Elmore, chief ranger at Fort Larned, has played a key role in my Indian wars writing life since we met in the early 1990s. In September 2012 I spent a lot of time with him during a major three-day Kansas event wherein I spoke about Wynkoop trying to prevent Maj. Gen. Winfield Scott Hancock from destroying a peaceful Cheyenne-Lakota village on the Pawnee Fork in Kansas on the protected and pristine village site (my favorite of all the key Cheyenne village sites). George shared stories about men and events that are right up my alley—men and events I had no knowledge of. If ever we can put our heads together and I have the opportunity to explore these stories, my writing will take on an entirely new direction while surprisingly stay the course with everything I have written in the past.

Two people

As I mentioned above, there are a lot of great people in my life, people I enjoy seeing and hanging out with at the drop of a hat. This can happen with my friends in LA and attached counties (and I can count them on my fingers and toes). Expand to Northern and Southern California, the West, and points east, and this number noticeably grows. No matter when I see any of these people, it is just like yesterday. They are all talented, artistic, and vocal. In a word, they are really cool human beings. Some share my interests; others don’t. Some share my political views; others don’t. They are of a multitude of races, and not all are American born. They are just people, … people I’m lucky to know.

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There are two other people, and they are core to my soul and to my very existence. One I’ve known for many years (and some of you know her). The other is new to my life (and some of you know her). They give my life balance, they give my life validity, and they give my life a future.

Sand Creek and the Tragic End of a Lifeway (update #1)

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


As the Sand Creek book now moves forward at lightening speed I thought that the time had arrived to begin updates on its progress.

This blog is the first in what will be a long string of Sand Creek and the Tragic End of a Lifeway postings that deal with status, thoughts, invitations, and quizzes. Not to worry for I’m certain that most of you aren’t interested in swinging a blade—the winners won’t win a free dueling lesson. They will, however, win something that I hope will be of interest.

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Chuck Rankin (right) is editor-in-chief at OU Press. This image was taken in September 2011 when Ned Wynkoop and the Lonely Road from Sand Creek was presented to the public (Western History Association convention in Oakland, Ca.) for the first time. Chuck gave me the poster behind us, and it has since been framed and hangs in my living room. The reason is simple: This book is the most important book I have written. Charley Gatewood’s involvement with the Apaches was as important as Wynkoop’s with the Cheyennes and Arapahos, but Gatewood’s involvement was limited to his career within the military. Wynkoop’s involvement with Indians extended beyond the military and eventually challenged national politics. Both dared to stand for what they considered right, but Wynkoop’s fall was greater for he dared to take on his entire world. This took guts. Gatewood’s stance also took guts, but to a lesser degree. (photo © Louis Kraft & Chuck Rankin 2011)

Years ago Chuck pitched me to write a book about Sand Creek and I said “no,” that I write about people and not war. Chuck didn’t give up and over time we have worked on a storyline that is good for both of us. Our connection with this story idea didn’t stop there and he has been with me as the book proposal developed. It became a story idea that we both liked and we worked as a team. Chuck sent an email a week or so back, and it reads in part:

“Sorry for the delay, but I was going to wait until our Faculty Advisory Board [FAB] pronounced the final decision. That occurs August 13, a week from Tuesday. Meanwhile, our Editorial Committee (an internal committee) met on the project … this past week and gave Sand Creek a unanimous and enthusiastic two thumbs up. So, it’s all a green light to FAB, and I expect no problems there whatsoever.

“It’s all good.”

August 13 will move us to the final piece in making the book reality—the contract. This is always touchy as both sides have items they want. As such, it turns into a round-robin of negotiations. I hate to say it, but I enjoy this. … As soon as the contract is signed, Sand Creek and Tragic End of a Lifeway will dominate the next three years of my life. Talks will be limited to my full asking salary and all expenses, Errol & Olivia progress will slow but will move forward (this book is important and will happen). Alas, magazine writing will go on hiatus (am scrambling to complete what I owe). Blogs, however, will continue at a steady pace.

Those of you interested in Errol & Olivia fear not, for the next blog will deal with them.


August 13th is here, and late today the expected news arrived. Per Chuck Rankin:

“It’s late in the day and I’m headed out the door, but I wanted you to know that the faculty board approved your proposal for a study of Sand Creek today. Congratulations!”

Ladies and gents, all that remains are the contract negotiations. Chuck and I both want this book—we’ll work it out. At this moment I’m one happy frontiersman. The smile is wide. This is a good day to be alive.

Sand Creek Massacre and Errol & Olivia updates

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


You wouldn’t believe what my day entails if I told the truth; heck, you wouldn’t believe it if I lied. Let’s put it this way, the days are long. Long days are good, for nights can be hell … even though sometimes decent work bounces trippingly off the keyboard during the wee hours.

Images and ideas constantly dance before me; still it is often lonely. A hard and yet inevitable decision made 14 months ago set my book projects key to my future. This has locked me into “an outside forever looking in world” of my own making. No regrets, for it was a decision of choice (but surprisingly not new just dormant).

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lk watching daughter Marissa K. at the historical park where the Custer Battlefield Historical and Museum Association’s banquet was held the day after their annual symposium on June 24, 2011 (I spoke about Flynn, de Havilland, & Custer). Weather was great; not hot, not cold … nice. During the trip, Marissa and I hung out with good friends Linda Andreu Wald and Bob Williams. We tracked Custer at Pompey’s Pillar where he had a firefight with the Sioux in 1873, explored Billings (like the city, but don’t think I could survive a winter), saw a great piece of art on Kit Carson I had never seen before, and of course walked the Little Bighorn National Historic Monument (first time I’ve seen green grass there). Good times. … Here Marissa is checking her phone for something that Linda sent her. Bob Williams took this photo on June 25, 2011, and I like it for it captured a moment of time in my life that was at a crossroad (and I didn’t know it). More important at this late date, it shows me doing one of the few things I’m good at—observing.

Sand Creek and the Tragic End of a Lifeway

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Marissa Kraft exploring Sand Creek below the bluffs at the big bend of the dry riverbed on the Bill Dawson property in September 1987. (Photo © Marissa & Louis Kraft 1987)

Work on Sand Creek and the Tragic End of a Lifeway has picked up speed and intensity. Research is now ongoing and daily (except when I visit the USC Warner Bros. Archives). An historian’s search never ends and it is forever ongoing. William Bent, a trader who would play a major role walking between two worlds (Cheyenne-Arapaho and white), is seeing his part in the story grow while at the same time seeing portions of his life debunked.

The question here is how to present information that puts the lie to supposed known “truths” that have been repeated so long that they are no longer questioned? George Bird Grinnell’s work with the Cheyennes is standard. How can his writing be challenged without outraging the multitudes that have accepted it without question? Me included … until now.

Battle or massacre? For years I have held steady that the attack on the Cheyenne-Arapaho village on Sand Creek in November 1864 was a battle. Within the last two months I have changed my opinion. I recently read Ari Kelman’s A Misplaced Massacre: Struggling Over the Memory of Sand Creek (2013) and am disgusted and yet thrilled with his book. His facts and conclusions based upon listed primary source material confuses me. How could he have good information and yet interpret so poorly that his sections dealing with 1864 and 1865 are loaded, and I mean loaded, with errors. This isn’t excusable. How? Why? But this only accounts for 20 percent or less of his text.

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The rest of the book, fully 80 percent, is a page-turning exposé of the struggle to find the Sand Creek battlefield and the ongoing fight between property owners in southeast Colorado, Cheyenne and Arapaho massacre descendants, politicians, local residents, National Park Service personal, historians, would-be historians, government officials, and so on before the Sand Creek Massacre National Historic Site could become reality.

This portion of Kelman’s book is not about that terrible day of November 29, 1864, when people who thought they were at peace were attacked by Colorado volunteer troops, killed (and in numerous cases murdered), and then hacked to pieces (but Kelman understands and captures the devastating wound that still burns within the soul of today’s Cheyennes and Arapahos). On that November 29th day volunteer troops used small children for target practice, an unborn child was cut from its dead mother’s body and scalped, three women and five children prisoners were executed by a lieutenant with his saber as their guards backed away in horror and while they begged for their lives. Many of the bodies gave up between 5, 7, and sometimes 8 scalps. Penises, vaginas, and breasts were cut from the dead and displayed as ornaments and trophies. I have been talking about this and writing about this for years. AND I’m always disgusted (as was Ned Wynkoop when he learned what had happened). BUT it was Ari Kelman’s book that made me realize that Sand Creek was a massacre—not because everyone died, for many people escaped the bloodbath and survived, but because of the heinous intent of the onslaught, the heinous intent to remove a race of people from the face of the earth.

Yes, I’ve been outraged for years, and that outrage is front and center right now.

That said, Sand Creek and the Tragic End of a Lifeway will be told from all sides and in the POV (point of view, a cinematic term) of the participants. I will paint no villains; you will judge the participants by their actions, and when I know them by their motivations. It took Chuck Rankin, editor-in-chief at OU Press, and myself years to piece together a story idea that both of us are enthusiastic about. Over these years Chuck has become a good friend and a calming element in my life. Sometimes I push too hard, and he growls back. But that’s good for it gives me a release on frustrations and at the same time keeps me focused and in line.

Errol & Olivia

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Cool ef & odeh art from a magazine that no longer exists. I want art for the cover of Errol & Olivia, and if not I already have the photo I want to use (believe it or not, I already have the cover art for the second Flynn book).

Research for the manuscript on Errol & Olivia continues, and although I’m not writing as many words as I’d like I’m thrilled with the direction and focus in which the manuscript moves. I have constantly stated that this book will be “different,” and this remains true. The focus is certainly on Flynn and de Havilland, but it is on so many levels of their lives and times that I can’t remember reading a similar type of biography. The search for them is ongoing and intense as I use every means I’ve learned over the years (from the theatrical, technical, and historical worlds) to bring them and their world to life.

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As with all previous books, it is the entire research, writing, and production process that gives me life. … This guarantees that the upcoming years are going to be one hell of a good ride.

Errol Flynn, Olivia de Havilland, Custer, & Sand Creek

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


Captain Louis Edward Nolan carried the orders that launched the infamous charge of the Light Brigade. Flynn’s Captain Geoffrey Vickers is based upon Nolan.

Those of you who think that Errol & Olivia will never see the light of day—shame on you, for it is perhaps the most important book that’ll I’ll ever write. Certainly it will be the most challenging, and that is because of what must be mixed into the telling of the story of E&O. This isn’t an easy mix of detail for if nothing else their eight films are a mix of reality and fiction. In their eight films together, three of Flynn ‘s characters were originally based upon the pirate Henry Morgan, Louis Edward Nolan, and the gunman Wyatt Earp.

In three others, he played J. E. B. Stuart, Robert Devereux, and George Armstrong Custer, while only one of Olivia’s characters was based upon a real person—the magnificent Elizabeth Bacon Custer.

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Elizabeth Bacon Custer in 1864 or 1865. Libbie, as Custer and all her friends called her, was an exceptional human being. She could accept Custer, her man, her love, for what he was, and for 57 years after Custer’s death at the Little Bighorn, she preserved his image. When, in 1867 Custer risked all to confirm that his Libbie hadn’t become a victim of cholera, when he appeared and they they spent a wondrous day making love, she would forever call it that “one perfect day.”

Of course, Maid Marian and Robin Hood are based upon legend. I have read that Flynn’s character, Robert Lansford, in Four’s a Crowd is also based upon a real person during the early part of the 20th century. To date, unfortunately, I have not been able to confirm this.

In case you aren’t aware of it, my toying around while creating blogs is in realtime in my life looking for directions that may drive the manuscript. How do I dig, how do I explore? I’m constantly on the alert for a Flynn/de Havilland connection. Did he smile at her, did she slap him, did he inappropriately touch her and better did she enjoy it? But here, I’m constantly searching for the spine of their films–the screenplays. Make no mistake, Warner Bros. paid their screenwriters a lot of money to create. These writers were constantly under high pressure to write sparkling dialogue and plots that advanced at lightning speed. Screenwriting is an artistic craft, but like all writing it is a collaborative effort. Don’t doubt this, for I know this from what seems a lifetime of seeing words printed. The only time wherein I can take full credit is when I speak, for then it isn’t the written word; rather it is how well I have prepared and how well I keep my concentration for I don’t know what I’m going to say until I say it. I’m never more alive than at these moments, … the only exception being when I’m with a special lady.

We all need that “one perfect day.”

Doubt it not, Errol craved to explore Olivia’s delights and she in return wanted to taste him. It would never be, and that alone is enough to write a book. But there’s so much more that it’s mind-boggling. The major question here is how do I mix and match facts in a way that results in a page-turning manuscript that captures Errol Flynn and Olivia de Havilland?

From the moment they saw each other during the tests for Captain Blood in 1935 their physical attraction for each other was in place, and it would drive their lives in eight films. It wasn’t to be, but that doesn’t distract from their reality or the film performances they created. The Lord only knows how many books have been printed about “how to act.” Probably 90 percent of them are avoidable (at all times). Simply put, acting is grabbing your gut feelings, your soul, your inner being and bringing it to life on stage or on film. This isn’t easy to do, but Errol Flynn and Olivia de Havilland did it. And that is why their scenes together are so alive with life. A simple fact with one bottom line—great acting.

They made eight films, three westerns, two swashbucklers, one comedy, one historical-adventure w/tragical overtones, and one historical tragedy. In all of these films one thing shined though and sizzled with life, their real-life feelings and desires for each other.

I discovered pirate Errol Flynn in The Sea Hawk and his shy love for Brenda Marshall while a boy. Soon after I found again him in They Died With Their Boots On. He was George Armstrong Custer and Olivia de Havilland was the love of his life, his Libbie. Although unknown at the time, these films would dictate my future.

They would dictate how I would view womanhood and love, they would dictate my view on life, and ultimately they would dictate my career (if one can consider “writing” a career).

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This image, slightly reworked and the beginning of art, was taken during the filming of Errol and Olivia’s last full working together as actor and actress. The scene didn’t exist when they shot their famous and often thought their last screen performance when they shot the so-called “diary scene.” There’s a great story behind this scene; it will be in the book.

Of Flynn and de Havilland’s films, They Died With Their Boots On is the most important for the simple reason that it celebrates their acting capabilities on film. They had aged, had accepted each other as human beings while knowing that their earlier desire for each other would never come to pass. This was a major accomplishment in their lives for it allowed them to not only move forward but gave them a relationship that was real and not based upon physical desire. They could pinch and squeeze and hug and caress and not feel threatened, … they could accept each other as a man and a woman that had desires that would never reach fruition.

When two people realize this about each other it allows them to become friends for all time regardless when they see each other. It gives them a love that transcends time regardless if they had ever been intimate.

You are again front and center to how I research a writing project. I must grasp for my players’s souls as I attempt to know them. Know this, I can only write about what I discover. Errol and Olivia are much more accessible than Ned Wynkoop and his Louise or George Armstrong Custer and his Libbie. Why? How? Simple, … there is a million more documents related to E&O as opposed to Ned & Louise or GAC & Libbie. As a writer/historian I must explore everything I can find on E&O, digest it, figure out what happened that dictated their life, times, and relationship.

This isn’t an easy project, and worse, it’s loaded with false leads and out and out lies. On the plus side as OU Press stalls with its progress in moving toward completion with a signed contract for Sand Creek and the Tragic End of a Lifeway, E&O gains momentum as research and writing move forward. My desire to complete E&O is huge, and if the press’s passive approach to their desire—me completing a final Sand Creek manuscript from date of signed contract—stalls to the point of E&O driving toward manuscript delivery, I won’t sign the Sand Creek contract unless it is rewritten to state that my delivery will be three years after the conclusion of the E&O manuscript.  There are two major driving forces behind the above statement. The most important of which is at the moment I am working on E&O five-six days per week, and I’m having one hell of a good time.

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You are looking at one of the images that will appear in Errol & Olivia. Most likely all the images will be colored artwork. Since I like breaking rules, this is the current plan (and let me tell you right now that if this comes to pass I will take some heat, venomous heat). Most likely the book will include 30 images when printed. Will soon submit a series on Flynn’s westerns for magazine publication, and the submission will include this image. (art © Louis Kraft 2013)

1) FIRST AND FOREMOST, I could dedicate the rest of my book-writing future to writing about Flynn and de Havilland. 2) Although there is a novel wherein Kit Carson will play a major character and a major novel with Ned Wynkoop the leading player, in the nonfiction world, after Sand Creek, only a manuscript on Kit Carson looms in my future. Although I have written and spoken about George Armstrong Custer for years, all pitches to do a second book on him have been greeted with negative response. To date all talks about a nonfiction book on Carson have also met with negative response. I want to write a nonfiction book on Carson, and I want to tie my professional life to Wild Bill Hickok (but in a theatrical way). If these projects falter (if Sand Creek stalls only the publisher can address the reason why, for both they and I have worked diligently to move this book to reality), by default E&O, all future book projects on Flynn and one on de Havilland may well be my future.

If so, ‘taint too bad of a future.

Geronimo, Sand Creek, Mike Koury, & challenging me

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


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

“A little bite.” …  

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

mKoury_lkArt20may13_website

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

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

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

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

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

Vagueness is heaven. Sorry.

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

Trust me on this one.

Snow, a beautiful woman, and Sand Creek

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


I’m going to link this post to Sand Creek POV for Sand Creek and the Tragic End of a Lifeway is now front and center in my life. More at the end of this post.

Dear friends, this ol’ boy is home in sunny SoCal, and he has had enough of the “winter wonderland” they call Colorado to last a lifetime. A wimp? No way, … actually it was just the opposite (will attempt to detail what turns out to be a successful trip to Colorado in the coming days, successful in many ways except for money which I may discuss once I confirm my notes).

I flew into Denver, drove to Fort Collins where new/long distance friend Layton Hooper (who had hired me to speak at an Order of the Indian Wars symposium in Centennial, Co.) lives w/his pretty wife. After my arrival I was snowed in for three of four days. Boy, did I get lucky. Layton & Vicki are cool people, and I can’t tell you how much I have enjoyed getting to know them. More at a later date.

People often accuse me of name dropping, and I don’t mean to do this. Actually, when I name people, they are usually friends of mine for I usually ignore people that rub me the wrong way. More in another post.

Quick change of subject … tonight at the Denver airport I watched a slender woman with long dark hair eat half a sandwich. She was gorgeous. A white top, dark pants, and tennis shoes. As luck would have it, she and I didn’t hear the boarding announcement for our flight. She asked, and I delightedly replied. A short conversation. I learned a little, mainly that she was from Austria and would be visiting SoCal. Her English was as good as mine (no joke, for her pronunciation was masterful). I am usually very passive toward the opposite sex. Usually they have to hit me over the head before I realize they have any interest. Alas, this lady didn’t hit me over the head (read, most likely, no interest). I enjoyed watching her eat, hope she visits this blog/website, reads these words, and contacts me (this a reach for me, and it doesn’t happen often). I enjoyed our few minutes talking. Will I see her again? Hope always burns eternal. If she does contact me, you can bet I’ll enjoy whatever the future holds. If not, I enjoyed a few minutes with a very pretty lady I wish would enter my life.

Back to Sand Creek and the Tragic End of a Lifeway. Research has begun (in Denver), I will complete the proposal for editor Chuck Rankin at OU Press by the end of the month, he’ll pitch it, we’ll sign the contract, and I will deliver the manuscript in three years. For those of you who read and enjoy my writing, this will be a people book (as always) but it will be different. I will walk with my leading players in ways I haven’t in the past. Chuck has bought into free-flowing prose that is close to fiction (for the attack on the Cheyenne-Arapaho village) that if I can maintain it, it will become the most page-turning nonfiction prose since the Custer book. If I can pull this off, it will be the best book I have written to date. The challenge is front and center, and it is for me to deliver.

‘Wynkoop’s Last Stand’ kick-starts the future

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


With the Wynkoop talk* now almost upon me, I have entered survival mode as I try to figure out what I’m going to say. Nothing new here; usually the last one or two nights before a talk I burn the midnight oil.
* See the Events page for details.

Unprepared? Nope, just the way I like to work. The goal is to find life in the story. If there’s an edge to it, better yet. If one person, just one person, walks away from a talk determined to dig into the subject I’m one happy fellow.

As the talk begins to dominate my time, I play with juicy tidbits and wonder if I can add one or more to the talk’s flow. If so, will they break it? Worse (or rather better), I’m toying with using a few words I’ve never used before in a talk. These words have been swirling around in my mind for days now. They belong, and yet I know they’ll jerk a few people awake. Certainly someone will walk out the door mumbling, “I’m not going to read any of his bullshit!” They’re in luck, I hate selling my writing (you notice I didn’t call it that nasty word).

Do I risk using these words? I’ll know the answer when it’s time to say them.

The talk kick-starts me on getting back to research, for Sand Creek and the Tragic End of a Lifeway is about to dominate half of every week for the next three years (that is, if there is no interference from that other life that I sometimes live). It also gives me quality time w/two writer-historian friends, cementing a friendship that has grown long distance, seeing old friends and meeting new ones (perhaps even talking about Olivia de Havilland), and finally a radio interview w/Irene Rawlings on her Focus show for Clear Channel radio in Denver.

When I return to sunny SoCal, it will be time to hit the pavement running.