Sand Creek Massacre, Errol & Olivia, Louis Kraft, and a perfect storm

Website & blogs © Louis Kraft 2013-2017

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


Rod Taylor, Michael Parks, Sam Shepard. OUCH!
Three actors who have played roles in my life are
all gone in one godawful 2017.
Who’s next? Me?

Parks* and Taylor have been favorite actors since I discovered them, and this has continued throughout my life even though some of their films and appearances on TV weren’t in top-notch productions.

In LK personal collection.

Still, fully ninety percent of their performances that I saw shined.

Michael Parks also has the distinction of being my favorite singer of all time.

* Kevin Smith directed Red State (2011), a film in which Michael Parks delivered one of my favorite performances of all time. If you don’t know anything about Parks see Kevin Smith’s memory of Michael Parks. Warning: There are some foul words, but the interview is from the heart of a director who viewed Michael Parks as a good person and an acting genius—something I agree with. Better, Parks’s performance shows how a person can play evil on screen while being charming, charismatic, and certain that everything he does is absolutely for the good when he does it.

I haven’t seen all that many of Shepard’s films and I don’t think I’ve seen any of his TV work. Still he always adds intense credibility to every performance that I’ve seen.**

** All three have films on my top 50 film list.


Time moves forward at lightening speed, and as the years have passed I have had a few-too-many encounters with the grim reaper.

As the body grows frailer, and as it is harder and harder to swing a blade with deadly intent I have come to cherish life. Shockingly, this is new to me as I have always been “charge forward with guns blazing.”

Two projects that are a long time coming

  • Sand Creek and the Tragic End of a Lifeway
    I plan on delivering a first rough draft to my editor, Chuck Rankin (OU Press), in December or January 2018, and the final draft before 2018 ends.
  • Errol & Olivia
    Research is continuous, and every so often when I have a few spare minutes I open the draft and add information. Right now I’m trying to confirm if Flynn’s first wife, Lili Damita, earlier had married the great film director Michael Curtiz or not. This must be confirmed without a doubt.

Below is an update on both.

Wandering through a life rife with change

I’ve been walking between the races since 1970 (but really it had been earlier as my parents had an open door policy no matter what a person’s race was). That year I joined Volunteers in Service to America (VISTA), which is/was like a continental Peace Corps. I had wanted to work with American Indians (even at that age), and the two other possibilities were African Americans (Blacks back then) and Latinos (Chicanos then). There was a lot of training at the University of Texas in Austin, … and afterwards we—the other candidates and I—partied. Big time. We were housed in tall a dorm (ladies on one floor and guys on another), and the celebrations went deep into the night in various dormatory rooms (two rooms that shared a bathroom).

Great friend Dennis Riley, then a photographer’s mate in the U.S. Navy, took this image a few days after my last final at SFVSC (now CSUN) in June 1969. That day was my first acting publicity shoot, and this image represented how I often dressed while earning my BA. I had picked up the god-awful nickname of “Tex” in college as I often wore a cowboy hat. “Tex”? Yee-ough! (a sound; not a word) (photo © Louis Kraft 1969)

One night in the wee hours I said something to a married couple that they enjoyed but a Chicano who would eventually select people to work with Latinos didn’t like. Suddenly I had a knife at my throat as he grabbed me from behind. I was scared to death but had my wits and kept calm. In between his bursts of rage I pointed out that he had fifteen and perhaps twenty witnesses. Did he intend to kill them too? I also pointed out that if he killed me his cause was DOA (dead on arrival).

He let go of me, and let me tell you that I was one happy cowboy to see the sun rise that morning. Surprisingly at breakfast, which began at six, I had become a celebrity. This was stupid, and I hated it. From my view I was damned lucky to be alive. … A few weeks later the American Indian, Black, and Chicano group leaders chose their candidates a la choosing a sand lot football team. I was chosen early by a Black group from Oklahoma. A week of living with a Black family in Sapulpa (Oklahoma), more training in Austin, back to Sapulpa, and back to Texas before being assigned to Oklahoma City. My supervisor in OK City, Cheetah Gates, told me to ditch the cowboy boots when he saw them. I asked why. “The brothers don’t like cowboys,” he said. “If you want to live don’t wear the boots.” I took him at his word.

During the summer of 1976 Kitty Moore was playing one of the leads in a summer 1976 Texas Tech theater department play (Lubbock, Texas). She was about to begin her junior year in college. What I saw that summer was an eye opener. Lubbock was a mass of racial inequality and hatred, it struggled with what appeared to be a drug culture that grew by the day, and a theater department that was split by two different cliques. Some of my not so-good  experiences in Lubbock initiated the writing of my first screenplay, and surprisingly it landed me my first screenwriting agent. I based the female lead on what I viewed as the essence of who Kitty Moore was (she eventually read a draft of Laird Francis and liked it).

This was just the beginning. By the mid-1970s I was writing screenplays and a number of them dealt was race (this came about after a summer of dinner theater in Lubbock, Texas, a place I was lucky to put in my rearview mirror without being tarred and feathered as racism in the city and factionalism in the Texas Tech theater department was rampant that that time). Most of my screen plays were current day, or at least historically based in the 1970s. The two exceptions included 1) Wonderboat, an epic tragedy that dealt with U-boats during WWII, and 2) Corsair, which dealt with the Englishman John Ward who became a feared Tunis pirate during the early seventeenth century.* By the mid-1980s I was writing and selling baseball articles, but soon changed focus to the American Indian wars (writing for periodicals and speaking at symposiums).

* Drafts of my screenplays are housed in the Louis Kraft Collection at the Fray Angélico Chávez History Library (Santa Fe, New Mexico). For more information about Wonderboat see Louis Kraft’s top 12 Errol Flynn films … a personal view.

In 1999 I wrote for a space industry firm that had one customer: Hughes. My major deliveries usually consisted of about 1,000 pages of documentation (and you would choke if I told you what Hughes paid for it). My editor worked in the company’s headquarters in Herndon, Virginia, as did my manager. Most of the documentation department was in Herndon except for one writer in Colorado, one in Northern California, and yours truly in the South Bay of Los Angeles County. That summer all of us attended week-long demonstrations at headquarters that dealt with using code-based software to create documentation that could be delivered to multiple types of output while discussing the difficulty of such a massive change while still making our deliveries on deadline.*

* This didn’t happen during my time in the space industry, but I later experienced moving from WYSIWYG (“what you see is what you get”) book design to code-based production tools that could deliver documentation in various formats at the now defunct Sun Microsystems and later at Oracle.

The editor and I had a great long-distance working relationship, and during the evenings she became my tour guide, dinner companion, and drove me to Leesburg where I spent time with Wild West editor Greg Lalire at Primedia’s headquarters (they then published a great grouping of about 12 history magazines).

While there I verbally pitched and sold an article on Ned Wynkoop and the Cheyennes to the then editor of MHQ: The Quarterly Journal of Military History (it was published as “Between the Army and the Cheyennes” in the Winter 2002 issue).

Being so close to Washington D.C. I had negotiated not flying home until Sunday. That Saturday my space-industry editor took me to the National Archives and we worked together. I liked her, but she had a dual-personality that I didn’t know about until I returned to Los Angeles. She had told me about the “good ol’ boys” at headquarters, but after I flew home I became one of them. I think that this was all in her head, but that doesn’t matter. She began calling my home phone but her voice had turned demonic and threatening. Eventually I received and unmarked package. Inside was an oversized mailing envelope with one word in bold red ink: “SHAME” (there was hair inside the envelope). Creepy. I kept it for DNA evidence.

My father Louis Sr. (left), brother Lee, and me. I’m on a 1970 Triumph Trophy 500. The bike survived both accidents described below, although the collision with the girl that outweighed me turned me into a gimp for a couple of months and the Triumph required a lot of work to fix. For the record I was wearing a helmet during both crashes. (photo © Louis Kraft, 1972)

While racing around turns on a narrow mountain dirt trail, the motorcycle in front of me suddenly stopped when the path ended. To avoid ramming the motorcyclist I attempted to slide around him as I braked. I almost pulled it off, but instead took my Triumph over a cliff. On another occasion an oversized girl who was running hit me broadside as I exited a driveway at low speed. My hand jerked the accelerator, the Triumph shot into the street, jumped a curb, and left me knocked out and hanging from a chainlink fence. Car wise, the worse was hitting the center divider of the CA 134 freeway headfirst at high speed, the car spun and took out the left side on the center divider, spun in the opposite direction and destroyed the rear end, and this is where the car stopped. Shockingly I walked away from the crash (what helped was that it was two days before Christmas 2010 and traffic was light).

Being vague has become a way of life to protect numero uno—yours truly

I’ve been coy, or rather vague, elsewhere on social media. That’s just me, but the horror of an end stares me in the face, and for multiple reasons. … I have three ladies to protect, three lives to see long into their futures. You know one of the ladies but the other two will remain unknown. I also have multiple books to complete. This is a massive task but I have every intention of completing it. Unfortunately there are pointers that hint that the future may not be as I envision it.

LK and Pailin on 2sept2016. It was just minutes before I would be prepped for throat surgery. (photo by Pailin Subanna-Kraft and © Pailin Subanna-Kraft & Louis Kraft 2016)

Actually I’m staring at something that I cannot possibly complete today as the story is ongoing and without end (unless …?). This leads me to a place that I have ignored, been vague, or worse I have refused to discuss. I’m going to try and do that in this blog, and hopefully with a minimal number of words while still talking about Sand Creek and the Tragic End of a Lifeway and Errol & Olivia status.

In September 2016 I had my second operation that year (both were in my ear, nose, and throat specialist’s surgery center in Northridge, California). It was the twentieth surgery to date and was a throat operation (in April I had my second sinus surgery there). As advertised it would improve my breathing. Surprisingly, or perhaps not so surprising as I had been warned that the recovery would not be fun, it easily took two weeks of pure hell as the drugs to mellow the pain flat out didn’t work.

LK joking while waiting to be prepped for throat surgery on 2sept2016. I was relaxed and enjoying myself. (photo by Pailin Subanna-Kraft and © Pailin Subanna-Kraft & Louis Kraft 2016)

Two previous operations had eliminated cancer, and if they had not happened I would have long ago begun dancing with angels. One removed a portion of my spine, and if this didn’t happen I would have stopped walking fourteen years ago. … I have other problems now, for earlier this year breathing again reared its ugly head, but this time he brought his pals with him. Walking had been making great strides between late September 2016 and the beginning of June 2017 as I averaged fourteen miles per week. … The phrase, “all things must pass,” has been around forever, but for me this couldn’t happen soon enough as it began to get scary in mid-spring 2017. By this time isolated incidents slowly began to become ongoing events to the point of concern. Worse, I hadn’t been able to figure out why this was happening and neither could my specialists.

I know … still vague! Sorry, but I have to ease into this.

I’m a fighter. I have three aforementioned ladies to protect,
I have books to write, and I have every intention of willing myself to do this.

A quest for truth

Many books contain errors that have been perpetrated for decades or longer. Sometimes this is because the “so-called” fact has been printed so often that it is accepted as truth. Other times it is because of laziness, or worse because it propels a writer’s story forward even though he or she knows that the fact is fictitious. This leads directly to writers who ignore proven facts simply because it blows holes in their set-in-stone premise. And it gets worse than this, for sometimes writers create facts and quotations and cite obscure material figuring that most readers don’t have the source, and the handful that might have the documentation won’t bother to check the citation. … The above is a mouthful, but not my point. Like medicine, history is not an exact methodology and the reason has always been in place. Simply stated, if five people participate in a specific event there is a good chance that their views on what happened differ. Sometimes slightly but at times considerably. Occasionally a known fact can confirm truth in a documented event while at other times deciding upon what really happened is not an easy task.

A couple examples follow:

  • Edmund Guerrier and Julia Bent were two mixed-blood Cheyennes who were young at the time of the Sand Creek Massacre in Colorado Territory on 29nov1864. They were both in the village on that tragic day, but luckily both escaped death and sexual dismemberment. Some books have them married on that tragic day, but without any proof. Actually they weren’t married, and wouldn’t be for many years in the future (and I can prove this).
  • LK speaking about Errol Flynn, Olivia Havilland, and The Santa Fe Trail (1940) at the Festival of the West, Scottsdale, Arizona, on 19mar2005. (photo by Johnny B. Boggs)

    Olivia de Havilland is a good case in point. Fortunate enough to spend time with her I know firsthand that she is a warm, kind, and caring person. She is also charming and very intelligent, and can easily shift from topic to topic without hesitation, such as moving from being cast in Gone with the Wind to Jack Warner to modern-day USA politics. To be precise she specifically told me how well she knew Warner (great stuff here, but not in agreement with what has been published). In regards to Gone with the Wind, she had a “take no prisoners” stance. On the visit wherein we talked about her landing the role of Melanie I was well prepared for the conversation. By that I had notes with me relating to her landing the role including the points-of-view of fired director George Cukor and producer David O. Selznick, along with additional storylines. She listened intently to what I shared, and then proceeded to inform me what really happened. Like most primary sources—and I don’t care if it is 1860s Colorado Territory or 1930s Hollywood—everything must be considered in an attempt to piece together what happened. At times I have placed conflicting, but just as valid, points of view of an event in my notes. I’ll give you one guess of what is going to happen here.

An Active Person am I

Always! I learned how to duel with a foil with the great Ralph Faulkner, who won the World Amateur Sabre Championship in 1928, and represented the USA at the Olympics that year and in 1932. He had come to Hollywood to become an actor in the early 1920s (even playing Woodrow Wilson in a silent film) but soon began his great career as a stunt double and as a choreographer of duels for decades, as well as having has own Falcon Studios on Hollywood Boulevard where he taught fencing for over fifty years.

My partner parries an LK slashing sabre lunge to her midriff at North Hollywood Park in December 1981. Although mostly cropped, our coach and the cameraman dominate the foreground of this image as they taped the workout. (photo © Louis Kraft 1981)

I grew up with a pool, swam in the Pacific, and up until early 2013 swam (the last years in 24-Hour Fitness pools, which are great!). A lot of sandlot football, and this resulted in my first real injury in the late 1960s. Ditto sandlot baseball (my parents refused me playing on a Little League team), but between 1980 and 1990 I played ten years of year-round softball (for the Kool-Aid Kids), but this ended in early 1990 with a knee operation and my brother’s sudden death (the most shocking event of my life then and it still is today). At that time I had also been running since the late 1970s, usually doing three and a half miles or seven miles per day. Let me tell you that running and swimming (and I was doing thirty-plus laps at 24-Hour Fitness without a break when I ran out of time) keep you in shape. Think the 24-Hour Fitness pools are Olympic sized (they were certainly the same size as the pool that I used in college). Oh, I also learned swashbuckling, or stage dueling, in the early 1980s ( and fought and choreographed duels for the stage), and I still work out with a blade when all is well.

A change of pace

In fall 2015 I redid the front yard during my spare time (I had previously removed the grass and already had a lot of drought-resistant vegetation growing in the yard). I leveled the ground, put in walkways of rock and stones and wood chips, and created a maze of cactus, aloe vera, and other plants that provide beauty (at least to my eyes). Every time I stand or sit in the front yard I feel as if I am in New Mexico or Arizona or the original SoCal. This was easy work and I never broke a sweat.

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Still, a lot of the work was on my knees, and this is where I discovered a problem for in this position I began to huff and puff. I completed the work about the second week of December but the breathing problem bothered me. I began searching for answers, and the only one I came up with of pointed to my heart.

My heart has always skipped a beat and my cardiologist and I have tracked it for decades without any problems. Early in January 2016 I visited him (he’s also my internist), and he ran all the usual tests and everything came up negative.

How? Why? Something was going on. … Finally he had me blow into a breathalyzer. I failed—twice. He prescribed an inhaler and pills to control blood pressure, which he felt would climb (my blood pressure had always been good, but soon it would become a challenge).

Final LK art of my cardiologist of over twenty years, and writing partner on The Discovery. (art © Louis Kraft 2017)

Late on January 16 while using the inhaler for the night dose I fell backwards into the bathtub and cracked the top of my skull open. Blood flowed onto the wall and into the tub. My legs were hooked over the side of the tub, my ass was in the tub, and my back and head propped against the back of the tub and the wall. The blood was slippery and it continued to flow. I couldn’t get a firm grip with my hands and had become a turtle stuck on his back. Pailin, who had had just gone to bed, heard the crash, and rushed to help me get out of the tub. Afterwards she cleaned me up and I cleaned the bathroom. She asked if should go to the ER. … I shook my head. My brain functioned and I had performed a few simplistic concussion tests. I felt I okay, but told her I’d go to the cardiologist in the AM. Before going to bed I called my PPO’s nurse line, and she recommended a night in the ER. … Pailin had a long day in front of her and I didn’t think the injury was that bad.

The following morning my cardiologist’s nurse cleaned the wound as well as possible. She told me that I’d need staples. After checking me over my cardiologist asked if I was dizzy, felt faint, or had passed out before I fell. I told him no, that I was wide awake when I hit. He confirmed the nurse’s view, I walked across the driveway that separated the medical building from Providence Tarzana Medical Center, and checked into the ER. … The wound required six staples.

Sand Creek and the Tragic End of a Lifeway

Folks, this manuscript dominates my days. As said above a delivery is due to my editor in December 2016 or January 2017. Alas, the word count grows and grows and grows. This is similar to the situation I had with the Wynkoop book contract. I luckily had Editor-in-Chief Chuck Rankin behind me then, and he was again responsible for the Sand Creek contract. Actually Chuck pitched the story to me. I refused, but he refused to accept “no” for an answer. It took us two years to work out a proposal that was acceptable to both of us. … It is still acceptable to me, but this story has been pure hell to write. The research is ongoing, and as I’ve said elsewhere I put in about eight hours of research to about two hours of writing. And this is probably an understatement on the research side.

Pailin studying David Mann’s painting, “First of Five Thousand,” at the then Autry National Center on 7mar2015. Unfortunately the Plains Indians are not identified, something that I would have liked. The painting’s story is about a raid that is returning home to Canada with horses stolen in Mexico. Two thoughts: 1) That was one hell of a raid, and 2) That was a long trek to complete and return to their village safely with 5,000 horses. Considering that unknown Indians have successfully driven 5,000 horses from Mexico to Canada sounds like a movie plot and not reality, I like this painting. (photo © Louis Kraft 2015)

For the record, the Cheyenne storyline is now jumping forward in leaps and bounds. John Chivington and John Evans move forward at a good clip. As do Black Kettle and Arapaho Little Raven. These two chiefs are coming to life through their actions and words. But these four aren’t the only ones: Ned Wynkoop, Rocky Mountain News owner and editor William Byers, and John Smith are also beginning to shine. Alas, William Bent is a little behind schedule, but this should end soon. Although Chuck Rankin was pleased with the Sand Creek fight that was in the 37-page book proposal years back, it too has changed considerably as I know more now. Better, a lot of people are coming to life in what is currently chapter 13 as the fight turns into a scramble of single events that merge together to create the whole.

Pailin took this image of LK and Chuck Rankin at the Western History Association Conference in Newport Beach, California, on 17oct2014. (photo © Louis Kraft & Chuck Rankin 2015)

Earlier this year the manuscript lost a chapter when I decided merge chapters 1 and 2 together. The reason was simple: The manuscript is people driven regardless if they are major players, supporting players, or simply players who appear and then are never seen again. Too much time was being spent before I introduced a Cheyenne who emerged from the mists of time. Unfortunately his life ended tragically. And of course I’m struggling to confirm his presence at an early meeting with William Bent or reject it.

As in the past I take my time and challenge what I write and what I consider required for the manuscript. And time is ticking, … tick, tick, tick. It is time to walk the walk, that is it is time to put up or shut up. …

Right after I learned of Sam Shepard’s death I again watched his and Barbara Hershey’s film, Defenseless (1991). It has been on my top 50 film list, off it, back on it, and off it ad nauseam. When you have a chance, do yourself a favor and see this film. Nice performances by Hershey and Shepard.

I can’t begin to tell you how much I learn by studying film that I respect. For one thing, and this is important to Sand Creek and the Tragic End of a Lifeway, as decent film constantly provides ideas on how to smoothly move from one event to the next.

Left: The DVD cover for Thunderheart (1992), another film I watch often.

Val Kilmer, Graham Greene, Shelia Tousey, Ted Thin Elk, John Trudell, Fred Ward, and Shepard are the key players in this thriller that deals with a murder on a Sioux reservation around the time of the 1973 takeover of the town of Wounded Knee (27feb1973-8may1973) and the standoff with the U.S. government. For the record, and in stark contrast to Defenseless, this film has constantly been in my top five. On Thursday, 17aug2017, I asked Pailin if she’d like to join me in the Kraft Theatre and watch Thunderheart with me. She accepted and was glued to the screen.

Better, the Cheyennes and Arapahos are moving forward. We’re talking about raids and treaties and death and peace. We’re talking about a people who were led by chiefs that stood firmly for peace to save their people from murder as well as chiefs that stood firm for freedom at any cost.

Back to the healthy world of Kraft

This heading sounds facetious, or at best a big fat lie, … but this isn’t so. I have taken good care of myself over the years, and even more so after the cancer and spinal surgeries. As stated the first cancer surgery was to keep me among the living and the spine surgery (some four and a half months later) to hopefully keep me walking. … After I fainted the morning after this cancer surgery when three nurses attempted to help me to a chair by the window all hell broke out. A neurologist at the hospital (not one of mine) thoroughly examined me and afterwards proclaimed that I would not walk in the near future … to which I told him to F-himself and get out. Additional testing continued deep into the night, and without checking I remained in the hospital nine days.

Dejah Thoris (named after the princess of Mars in Edgar Rice Burroughs’ John Carter/Martian novels). Fully grown in this 1978 photo, she was the kindest and sweetest animal I have ever known. (photo © Louis Kraft 1978)

Not all was well when I returned home from the cancer surgery on a Saturday for on the next evening the catheter fell out of position and required a trip to the Encino Hospital Medical Center. The ER doctor told me he didn’t know how to put the catheter back in place. I told him to look it up in a medical book, which didn’t please him. Too bad! I then insisted he call my surgeon (who is also my urologist, who I’ve seen every three months since fall 2002) and he replaced it in less than a minute. The catheter was finally removed twenty-one days after the surgery. No fun.

There would be additional surgeries over the coming years, including an implant of animal tissue. I never asked, but have since hoped that it was Doberman tissue and not rat tissue.*

* See above photo for reason.

The next biggie …

My sister, Linda-Kraft-Morgon, lived in Lake Arrowhead with her husband Greg. They were supposed to come to my house for Christmas 2005 but I was under the weather and Linda’s immune system could not be put at risk. The second week of January Linda called and told me that she would soon die of the cancer that she had been fighting for several years. On the fifteenth I drove to Lake Arrowhead and we celebrated Christmas. On that day she told me that she had six more weeks to live.

Sunday, January 15, 2006, was a day that I’ll never forget. (photo © Louis Kraft 2006)

Sudeshna Ghosh, my documentation manager at Sun Microsystems, did one of the kindest things anyone has ever done—something I’ll never forget—for she allowed me to take a few hours off to drive to Lake Arrowhead two-three times a week during weekdays to see Linda, which gave me three to four days each during the remaining weeks with my sister. Sudesha’s compassion gave me a lot of memories captured in a handful of stolen hours, and they will be forever cherished.

During drives up the mountain to see Linda a sharp pain in my head became so intense that on numerous occasions I had to pull to the side of the road until it subsided. I didn’t think much about it as I figured that it was stress. … It wasn’t, for after Linda died on March 1 it continued in Los Angeles. That April I had my first sinus surgery, and I was lucky I did for if not I would have been heading for big trouble. Greg was right there for me, as was a former girlfriend and her son.

The years continued

I swam laps at 24-Hour Fitness, worked out with sabres, wrote for companies (Yahoo! and Oracle), did my research in the field as well as in archives, spoke about the Cheyenne and Apache Indian wars as well as Errol Flynn and Olivia de Havilland, saw articles published, finished a book (Ned Wynkoop and the Lonely Road from Sand Creek), and signed a new contract (Sand Creek and the Tragic End of a Lifeway).

March, Pailin’s good friend Daranee’s son, took this image just before we went through security at the Thailand International Airport on 1dec2014. We had spent the previous evening with Pailin’s great friends (Noi and Wichen) in Bangkok. Two of her brothers Pum and Mana, and Mana’s wife Pen, who had taken care of me during the wee hours before dawn when I arrived in Thailand weeks before and made sure I made my next flight, also joined us (along with other friends). Mana, Pen, and Pum took us to the airport the next morning.

Life was good. …

And on June 15, 2013, it got better. On that day I hosted a dinner party for five at Tujunga House. I invited a good friend and Errol Flynn expert and his beautiful wife (Robert and Annette Florczak) and another twosome. The other couple brought a lady for me. She was petite, pretty, quiet, and yet totally aware of her surroundings. Oh yeah, she was born in Thailand. Before that afternoon and evening ended I knew that I wanted her in my life. Yes, “That Lucky Old Sun” (my favorite rendition was Frankie Laine’s, released for the first time in 1949) is about long days and struggle while the sun shines. I find this very positive. Soon Pailin Subanna entered my life permanently—making me the luckiest guy in the world. And this feeling has easily quadrupled over the years.

Errol & Olivia is reality

I know that by now many of you think that my book on Flynn and de Havilland is little more than a pipe dream. Not so. I’ve been researching Errol & Olivia since 1996. The research is ongoing although the writing is light (but that is only because of what has been going on in my life and the major task of completing Sand Creek and the Tragic End of a Lifeway).

In spring 2013 I spoke about Ned Wynkoop at the Order of Indian Wars symposium in Centennial, Colorado. I think that the trip was eleven days, and most of them I spent with Layton and Vicki Hooper in their then Fort Collins home (it was my pleasure, although most of the time we were snowed in). Before the symposium I enjoyed a great morning, lunch, and afternoon with Mike and Dee Koury. Before leaving I pitched Mike on a Gatewood/Geronimo talk in Tucson for the OIW’s 34th Annual Assembly, and he kindly said yes. This image was taken in Tucson on 26sept2013. This was Pailin’s first Indian wars event (and to date her last).

For the record my last article, “Geronimo’s Gunfighter Attitude,” was published in the October 2015 issue of Wild West. At that time I informed editor Greg Lalire that there would be no more articles until the Sand Creek manuscript was in production. In September 2013 I delivered my last talk, “Gatewood’s Assignment: Geronimo,” before the 34th Annual Assembly of the Order of the Indian Wars in Tucson, Arizona. Again, this is related to the writing that I must complete (Sand Creek and E&O).

You’ve waited this long, a little while longer will only build your anticipation and that might be good. I can’t begin to tell you what I have found about Flynn and Livvie (Flynn’s pet name for Olivia) over the decades but it is massive. When Errol & Olivia is finally published it will be an eye-opener for numerous reasons (and this is not braggadocio). There is a lot of new information to present, there are egregious errors that need to be corrected, and the presentation will not be like any book you have read about either of them before.

This is a publicity shot for They Died with Their Boots On (1941). It won’t make into Errol & Olivia.

Hint: If you have read one or more of my biographies you have an idea of what is coming. Continuing this thought, if you have read any of my nonfiction books you know that I don’t just tell one side of a story. While saying this, I must add that I don’t take on long-term projects (Charles Gatewood, Geronimo, and the Apaches as well as Wynkoop, Cheyennes, and Sand Creek) without being 100 percent behind my topics. By that I mean that I do not explore major players in my writing without a deep commitment to write the best book possible. Also, I never write a book or article with the intention of trashing someone. As far as I’m concerned just about everyone (and there are exceptions, such as Charles Manson or Ted Bundy—both of whom were mass murderers) believes that they were right when the did something. Sometimes events overwhelm them and they act rashly, but this isn’t often.

A staff artist for American Classic Screen, John Tibbetts, created the art of Flynn and de Havilland in Captain Blood in 1978, and it graced the cover of the Jan/Feb 1979 issue of the journal (right). Tibbetts’ grabbed my attention decades ago. However, as the journal is long gone it might be difficult to track down who currently owns the rights to the painting or more important obtain a good digital copy of the original art.

If you’ve missed it, Errol & Olivia deals with their arrival in Hollywood, landing the leading roles in Captain Blood (1935), their life and times during their eight films together (1935-1941), and an epilogue. Like my Indian wars research I question a lot of what is generally considered fact for way-too-often information that has been sold as truth for decades is taken as truth, when in fact it isn’t. Ten, twenty, even a hundred printings of a supposed fact doesn’t guarantee anything if the source is unknown. Heck, it could have originated in a Daffy Duck cartoon. … I’ve seen numerous photos and a handful of paintings that feature Flynn and de Havilland together that would work for the cover of the book. Currently I’m leaning toward images dating to the 1940s.

For the record two other books are planned on Flynn. I already have the art that I want for the cover of one of these books.

A year of uncertainty—2017

The year began as any other, and for the most part I felt good. Walking the fourteen or so miles each week had done wonders for me. I even had different routes (half mile, mile, mile and a half, two miles, two and half miles, and three miles), and with this range I could take care of a lot of errands from grocery shopping to needed items at the drug store to dealing with the post office and the public library.

And this includes Sand Creek progress

Research and writing of Sand Creek and the Tragic End of a Lifeway has made decent progress. Actually it finally started to have a life of its own as certain historical personages began driving the manuscript. I let them take control and followed leads until they revealed events and more important certain players’ roles in these events in ways I never imagined. But sometimes the leads led to dead ends, but this is always good as it lets me know what I thought happened never did. I can’t begin to tell you how valuable this is to know.

But for me there’s always that bleepin’ BUT

I stopped walking two or three days before July 5, 2017, as my left heel hurt. Worse, during the last handful or so of walks I often began to breathe heavily. At times I felt dizzy. Each time I halted until my breathing returned to normal. Also, if there was still a hint of dizziness or lightheadedness I remained stationary until it also passed.

As July 4th fell on a Tuesday our trash pickup was the following day. The first trashcan was picked up about 6:30 but I didn’t retrieve it immediately for on this day I felt dizzy and was wobbly on my feet after taking my one medication and using the prescribed inhaler. This had happened before (but sometimes it was later in the day). At these times I sat down until the feeling passed (sometimes at the computer). By seven that morning I felt great, and went outside to put the trashcan away. When the trashcan was in place I let go of it and looked west toward the garage. Without warning I fell over backwards, crashed onto the driveway, and cracked the back of my skull open.

I took the photo that I based this art on nine hours after the fall. I was only a handful of inches from a huge prickly pear cactus that a friend gave me in 1992. I shudder when I think about landing on that cactus. (art © Louis Kraft 2017)

I had difficulty rolling onto my stomach. Luckily Pailin had taken the day off as it was her birthday. Hoping  that she was still relaxing in the dining room I called for her. She heard me, rushed to help me roll onto my stomach, stand up, and into the house. A bloody trail followed us all the way to the bathroom, where she cleaned the wound. Without her I’m certain that it would have been a struggle for me to get off the asphalt. Nervous, she called our close friends, and the three of them took me to the Providence Tarzana Medical Center emergency room.

This is how I felt when admitted to the ER. This photo of me was taken on 14dec1979 while in makeup at Universal Studios. (photo © Louis Kraft 1979)

Surprisingly, and certainly after a holiday where firecrackers and other nasty things light up the sky deep into the night, there was no waiting line. The wound continued to seep and I quickly stained the sheet behind my head. After I was cleaned up more, the ER doctor examined the damage while she asked all the usual questions: Did I feel faint, dizzy, or light-headed before the fall. I didn’t feel anything before the fall, absolutely nothing. This was just the beginning as hours would pass while tests were performed and studied. The doctor finally returned and informed me that the test results (including a CAT Scan) were good. She left and my scalp was cleaned yet again. The doctor reappeared and inserted three staples into my head. I was released, but before leaving I asked the attending nurse to clean my scalp and wrap my head. “Why?” I held up my right hand; my fingers were red with fresh blood. “So I don’t ruin the car seat.” She did as requested.

It was pushing three in the afternoon when I was released from the ER. No one had yet eaten, and everyone asked if I was up to a food break on the way home—something quick? “As long as it isn’t McDonald’s, Carl’s Jr., or something similar, I’m okay.” We settled on Sharky’s Woodfire Mexican Grill. Until seeing this image by a good friend I didn’t realize how red I was at that time. (photo © Louis Kraft & Pailin Subanna-Kraft 2017)

The head healed slowly, but the dizziness increased and the blood continued to seep. Over the next week or so I saw my internist/cardiologist and my pulmonary specialist and presented them with detailed notes and told them the highlights. My pulmonologist told me that my one medication could cause dizziness (I already knew this per the prescription’s documentation but was happy to have a verbal confirmation) but my internist/cardiologist would have to change the prescription. The inhaler was his and he told me that it didn’t cause dizziness. “What about the potency of it?” When I had tested several inhalers in May they had a higher dosage. Since I already had another appointment with him early in September he suggested we discuss it in more detail then. I agreed. … My internist/cardiologist didn’t think that the medication caused my dizziness.

I still didn’t know what was going on, but I knew that I wouldn’t be doing any walking in the near future, and that my six-plus hours of yard work would be less. … On the plus side I had more time to research and write.

The Sand Creek tragedy is in my blood

Oh yeah, you can bet it is! Yesterday, today, tomorrow, and now forever. I’ve known Ned Wynkoop intimately for decades. This meant that I knew something about Black Kettle, Little Raven, John Evans, John Smith, George Bent, John Chivington, Bull Bear, Left Hand, Silas Soule, and on and on, but not as much as I would have liked as I had previously focused on their connections to Wynkoop. This is no longer the case, for now I need to know them as much as I possible. Some of this has been easier said than accomplished.

In this “hunting party” image Rocky Mountain News editor William Byers is standing at the right (as printed in “When Wynkoop was Sheriff,” Wild West, April 2011). From the moment I saw the photo during a research trip I have liked it. Alas, Byers is the only person in the photo that has been identified to my knowledge. I had suggested the image to Editor Greg Lalire, but then had second thoughts about using it as at the time I was considering it for the Sand Creek book. When more room was required at the beginning of the article for a portrait that I had done of Ned Wynkoop that was smaller than I felt it should be and suggested to Greg that he cut the “hunting party,” he emphatically said,”No.” “Why not?” “Because I like it.” I could understand his view as I still like it. However, I have decided that it isn’t for Sand Creek as it dates to the mid-1870s (which is interesting as Byers looks younger here than in the 1860s).

At one time the word “survival” was in the title of this blog. It no longer is as it appeared to relate just to me. Nothing could have been further from my intension. For most of the leading players, including everyone listed above, and a good number of the supporting players in the Sand Creek story, dealt with survival often. For the Cheyennes and the Arapahos it was a part of their daily life, be it food, the weather or tribal enemies, such as the Pawnees. When the white man—the vi’ho’ i—came they were presented with an even greater danger to their survival. It was no easier for the Anglo Americans who were lured to their world by the dream of golden riches, or those who followed and discovered a magnificent land. They too, were at risk, but not only from the people whose territory they craved, but each other while experiencing the same daily problems as the people they wanted to eliminate (food, weather, and so on). Doubt not that those who survived in the land that became Colorado Territory were strong, focused, and had no intention of ignoring what they saw as their future.

Byron Strom, custodian of the Anne E. Hemphill Collection, graciously allowed me to use this image of Captain Silas Soule on 1apr1865 (his wedding day) in Ned Wynkoop and the Lonely Road from Sand Creek. Actually he had given me permission to use two images, but the other I failed to restore in a timely manner. My skills have improved over the years and with Byron’s permission I plan on taking another attempt at an image that is terrific although terribly deteriorated.

The Sand Creek and the Tragic End of a Lifeway contract states that the book will contain 37 images. Three will be maps and I’ll deal with them when the manuscript is in production. I’ve been looking for images for the book for years now. I prefer to use images that date to the time period of the manuscript. Hopefully there are photographs that will support the text, but in some cases I have used them in Ned Wynkoop and the Lonely Road from Sand Creek. I really don’t want to duplicate many of these images but know that some will be reprinted as they are key to the storyline unless I can locate similar images. At this time there are four photos that I’ll probably reprint, including the great portrait of John Chivington.

I’ve often used art (woodcuts, paintings, or line drawings). Also I have no problem with creating collages, as they count as one image. … I’ve been looking at the work of Cheyenne artists, and some of their work is descriptive and tells a story. If I decide to approach any of them, they will have to understand that I’m just a writer who would like to use their art and that I will provide them with a first edition of the book.

The cover for the October 2015 issue of Wild West.

There’s a story here (there’s always a story). I did two books on Lt. Charles Gatewood (Sixth U.S. Cavalry), Geronimo, and the Chiricahua Apaches’ struggle to remain free in the 1880s over a ten-year period. During a longer spread of time Wild West printed two stories of mine dealing with this subject. One of Gatewood finding Geronimo in Sonora, Mexico and talking him, Naiche, the last hereditary Chiricahua chief, and the remnants of their into people returning the United States and surrendering (“Assignment Geronimo,” October 1999) and Geronimo’s struggle to remain free (“Geronimo’s Gunfighter Attitude,” October 2015). Both magazines featured the great painting by Howard Terpning (“Legend of Geronimo”) on the cover.

Guy Manning’s Geronimo painting (El Prado Galleries, Sedona, Arizona).

For both articles I recommended Guy Manning’s terrific oil painting of an alert and squatting Geronimo as he watches for trouble in a night scene with blue dominating the painting. Both times either Editor Greg Lalire or the art director went with my suggestion. … The point of this story is that I contacted El Prado Galleries in Sedona, Arizona, and inquired about using Manning’s Geronimo art in Lt. Charles Gatewood & HIs Apache Wars Memoir. “Sure,” the person I spoke with said. “The cost is $2,000.00.” “No thank you,” I replied as I chuckled. … The above image is from the 1999 Wild West article. Unfortunately the text bled through from the following page. The presentation in the 2015 issue of Wild West was terrific but it took up the first two pages of the article (and I didn’t feel like taking the magazine apart to scan the image).

Images already in place for Sand Creek

I have several images long in public domain that I own and they will be in the book when published. I also intend to use two images of white captives, and one of a Cheyenne girl captured at Sand Creek. I’ve also seen an earlier portrait of John Chivington that I might use. … In regards to large art there is a painting of the Battle of the Washita (27nov1868), that although stiff in presentation, features Black Kettle and Medicine Woman Later attempting to escape death.* I plan on looking into the rights to use it but only if it can be printed as a detail as the entire painting is way-too large to be of any use in the Sand Creek book.

The Battle of the Washita is in the scope of the Sand Creek as the manuscript concludes at the end of the 1860s.

There will also be a new portrait of Black Kettle. A good friend of mine is Jeroen Vogschmidt, an artist and historian who lives in the Netherlands. He specializes in American Indians. He does a lot of portraits of especially the Plains tribes, and he has written books that also deal with them. Unfortunately they are in Dutch, although he told me that he is trying to get one of his books translated into English. Earlier this year he asked some of his friends which Indian portrait they would like to see him paint next. Motor-mouth Kraft jumped at this: “Black Kettle!” Jeroen liked the idea and completed the portrait. I liked his art, especially BK’s eyes which are focused on someone who is slightly to his left. Not shy I pitched him on allowing me to use the image in Sand Creek and the Tragic End of a Lifeway. Jeroen immediately agreed. Unfortunately I don’t have any photos of Jeroen, and I need to rectify this.

Those of you that have read my Sand Creek blogs know that I like a painting that Southern Cheyenne Peace Chief Gordon Yellowman painted years back (a framed print is displayed in one of the rooms in Tujunga House). When we near production I plan on sharing it along with other paintings for the book cover (to date I only have Chief Yellowman’s art on the list) with Chuck Rankin to hear his thoughts are the art.

Chief Yellowman (left) and Southern Cheyenne Harvey Pratt near the battlefield overlook during the first day of the Washita Battlefield NHS 2011 Symposium on November 11. On this day Gordon blessed the sacred ground and Harvey spoke about what it was like to be a Cheyenne warrior in the 1860s and to fight on foreign battlefields in modern times. (photo © Louis Kraft 2011)

A perfect storm

I saw my neurologist near the end of July 2017. As the CAT Scan had been negative at the Providence Tarzana Medical Center on 5jul2017 and a Brain MRI and X-rays of my lungs had been negative in May, he remained concerned and ordered a Brain EEG. After the EEG test on August 8 (in the medical building across the drive from the medical center) the technician told me that my brain looked fine. He then called me to his monitoring device and showed me that my heart rate was low. It ranged between mostly 35 and 36, and at times it dropped as low 30 while never reaching 40.

Knowing that my neurologist wouldn’t see the results for two or three days I took the elevator up to my internist/cardiologist’s office and told him the Brain EEG results. His nurse did an EKG (the heart rate was 39), and then attached a device on me that would record my heart rate for the next 24 hours. The next day when I returned it I was told to call the following morning for the results.

About 11:30 AM on August 10 I called for the test results, but there were none yet. I called back at 11:55 AM. “You have severe heart blockage, and need to get to the ER immediately,” my internist/cardiologist said. “Do not drive.” He also told me the name of my surgeon. My surgeon?

For the record, this was the first time I was aware that I might have a heart problem.

After the surgery, and until just before I was released, my vitals were watched closely. (photo by Pailin Subanna-Kraft and © Pailin Subanna-Kraft & Louis Kraft 2017)

The next four images
precede the flow of text but
do not ruin the telling of what
has recently impacted my life.

As Pailin was en route to West LA, I called our close lady friends. They didn’t answer but returned my phone call within minutes. They arrived at Tujunga House at one and drove me to Providence Tarzana Medical Center ER. … In the ER my heart rate remained low while my blood pressure shot off the charts (for me) and well above 200 and sometimes reaching into the 240s plus. After about two hours of the ER doctor studying my medical record and speaking to at least one of my specialists I was admitted to the hospital.

About 4:30 the doctor who would be my heart surgeon met me and showed me the printout of the 24-hour heart study. … My heart rate was skipping three and four heart beats at a time, and these were not isolated instances. The hospital had been monitoring my heart rate and blood pressure since my admittance, and I’m certain that the gap between these two readings increased considerably.

Pailin took this image of me holding the device that captures and displays my heart rate in realtime early on the morning of 12aug2017. At that moment it was 74. (photo © Pailin Subanna-Kraft & Louis Kraft 2017)

Through all of my surgeries I had been calm and collected except for two cancer surgeries, and they frightened me. The calmness has mainly been because I have always had full trust in my surgeons and surgical crews. I’m forever curious with everything that happens as events move quickly toward the anesthesia entering me. Knowing that when everything is over I’ll wake up, … or perhaps not. Surprisingly this is soothing to me.

If not, I’ll never know what happened. Trust me for I am aware of potential disaster as Dr. Robin Cook’s medical thrillers scare the hell of me (am currently reading Charlatans, which was just published). Still he is my favorite novelist. … We can now add a third surgery to my nervous list as I had entered the unknown world of the heart—my heart.

Pailin, who visited me at ten the previous night was back at seven on the morning of the eleventh. She had taken the day off. Her company was a godsend as the day dragged by with uncertainty as my heart rate remained low, and the thought of my heart continuing to miss three and four beats at a time kept my blood pressure out of sight. … The day dragged by at an unbearable sluggishness. I was supposed to be in surgery at four, but an hour passed without a peep out of anyone. I rang for the day nurse and asked for an update. She left but returned shortly and told me that the surgeries before mine proceeded slower than anticipated.

Breakfast with my lady on the morning of 12aug2017. (photo by Pailin Subanna-Kraft and © Pailin Subanna-Kraft & Louis Kraft 2017)

Long story short I was wheeled to surgery a little after six and my procedure began around six-thirty but moved slowly as my blood pressure remained high (I was not told what my heart rate was while under the knife). A bi-ventricular pacemaker was attached to my heart.

I had never seen what a pacemaker looked like until Pailin brought me home on August 12. Not a pretty sight but a thousand times better than a probable alternative. Pailin took this image of the pacemaker and scar above it as sunlight blasted through a bay window early on 27aug2017. (photo © Pailin Subanna-Kraft & Louis Kraft 2017)

Like the previous night I barely slept as the night nurse kept on top of my vitals. Again, a device that read my heart was attached to me (the same one as the previous two days) and it was plugged in as soon as my bed/gurney was back in place. The intravenous line was again attached and I was again put on air. My blood pressure remained high until four-thirty on the morning of the twelfth, and from that point on it slowly returned to normal. The monitoring continued all day, but I was finally released at four-thirty. Like the day of surgery—and it was a terribly long day for Pailin—she was back with me at seven on Saturday morning. On this day, which she again didn’t work, she informed her various managers that she would be taking the next six days off.

Free at last, and with hopefully a new outlook on life. Although I didn’t realize I was in big trouble until August 10, I am absolutely thrilled that a perfect storm set me in motion to get the pacemaker before something terrifying happened. I’m one lucky fellow.

The future?

Mine is now.

I met with my heart surgeon on 18aug2017 and had a lengthy description of what had happened between August 10 and 12, and what I had experienced since. The bi-ventricular pacemaker is currently set to 60, meaning that ideally it will trigger my heart to function whenever the heart rate drops below 60. However, I have atrial fibrillation, an irregular heart beat. As I had shared that I had some chest pain and slight lightheadedness, he told me to use Aspirin to thin my blood and that I would probably be put on a blood thinner. The mild chest pain continues off and on, at times my heart races*, and my breathing is heavy, but the lightheadedness is gone. The next two weeks will be key.

* My heart surgeon is mainly is concerned about my lower heart chambers not having a regular rhythm and beating faster than they should, which could cause clot-related blood flow problems. Honestly, so am I.

LK on the morning of 27aug2017. I’m getting a little stir crazy, and there’s weeks more of this, but I can’t begin to tell you how happy I am. (photo by Pailin Subanna-Kraft and © Pailin Subanna-Kraft & Louis Kraft 2017)

That same day my internist/cardiologist ordered a second 24-hour heart test for September 1, and on the fourteenth I’ll enroll in my heart surgeon’s heart monitoring clinic. Once set up, the clinic will be able to monitor my heart when I’m home.

My neurologist, who I have a sparkling relationship with (medically, life interests, and personally), has kept up with what is going on with me via the phone (he has the surgeon and hospital records). I also see him in early September.


Will I live to see our future, our country’s future? My friends, the answer is yes!
On May 31 I told my pulmonary specialist that I planned to live to 130.
He chuckled and said that he did, too.

— Louis Kraft

Louis Kraft’s top 12 Errol Flynn films … a personal view

Website & blogs © Louis Kraft 2013-2017

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


This blog is dedicated to my great friend,
Robert Florczak,
who is writing a book on Errol Flynn
that will become an instant classic when published.


The lead-in is long. It is also important, as it introduces you
to why I am capable of writing a film list.

I discovered film early in life and loved it, to the point that I wanted to be an actor. I studied acting in junior high school, high school, college, and then years after in professional theater groups. I worked in the industry for fifteen years (theater, film, TV, commercials, and print).

This image of LK was taken at Tujunga House on 5jan2017. I’m listening to something that I didn’t buy into … The story of my life, … and maybe yours. (photo © Louis Kraft 2017)

… But it didn’t go in the direction I wanted it to go in and I walked away “cold turkey,” just like quitting smoking, … and I didn’t gain a pound.

  • I study film (at least four times a week). What? Why? Simple, I can’t tell you how much I learn about a storyline, plotting, dialogue, character development, scope, and on and on.*


    * A few years back I functioned as a consultant to a person who wanted to write a novel (and what I told him also applied to how I view film). I’m not going to share his writing problems, but they were large. I provided a detailed redline of his manuscript pages and each review included pages upon pages by me that told him what he had to do to improve his story and prose (and this included many face-to-face consultations). … I wasn’t seeing any improvement and asked him if he read a lot. “Yes!” “Fiction?” “Yes.” … “Here’s what you need to start doing,” I told him. “When you read a book, what do you like about it? This would include what excited you, what made you cry, what made you turn the page, and so on. What didn’t you like about the book? Did it bore you? How and why? Did you put the book down and never return to it?” Moving forward. … “Could you improve the book that you were reading? If yes, how? … These are notes that you need to take, and you need to study them, for they will give you an insight on how to write fiction.” … 
    As I said, I study film and I study everything I read (and I do research each citation—you learn a lot about lies and fiction here).

  • Film has always been with me, and I have always studied it (and from many angles) … but there is one thing that I cannot accept and that is film or nonfiction or fiction rewriting history.*


    * Proven facts: Ned Wynkoop did not participate in the 1864 massacre and butchery of Cheyenne and Arapaho men, women, and children in Colorado Territory; George Armstrong Custer did not survive the 1876 battle of the Little Bighorn in Montana Territory; and Errol Flynn did not spy for Nazi Germany.

A film must grab and hold my interest from beginning to end. And just as important I must care about at least one character.

What follows is totally personal.

I write for me

… and I always have. This blog is for me, and it isn’t unusual for everything I write is for me. … Books, talks, plays, articles, blogs. My friends, regardless of what you think of this lead-in, everything I write is because I care about the subject matter. My hope is that you have an interest in it and read some of my words. … If not, I have just struck out.

LK hitting a home run for the Warriors, a team I filled in for when they didn’t have enough players on any given game. I played third base for them, and in this image I slashed a hooking line drive to left-center field that resulted in a home run. My team was the Cool Aid Kids, and I played for them from spring 1980 until March 1990 (and our seasons were year-round). (photo © Louis Kraft 1989)

Baseball has always been a part of my life (but not so much during the last twenty-seven years). It was when I was a kid, it was when I was a young adult, and it again entered my life in1980 (after my mother’s death). … Sorry. I’m vague, way too vague. I know this as my friends ping me all the time.

Baseball. There’s one major thing about baseball, and I love it. If you don’t come to the plate and bat you can’t strike out, … if you don’t come to the plate and bat you can’t hit a home run. I love hitting home runs. … This ended forever on March 6, 1990.

A film list?

I never wrote a list in my life until a few years back. A fellow named Hans Florczak (formerly known as Robert Florczak) insisted that I do a list of 10 Elvis Presley songs. I did this but then he got greedy and wanted Presley’s top 10 songs from the 1950s ’60s, and ’70s. At the moment I have 10 from the ’50s (but two are Christmas songs and one is religious), for the ’60s I currently have 40 songs (cutting this list is a waste of my time for I’ll never be able to complete the hack job), but, alas, I only have one firm song from the ’70s. This shouts out loud and clear that Elvis’s creativity came to an end early in that decade. At least for me.

(art and cover design © Louis Kraft 2016)

For the record, Elvis’s lone song from the ’70s* is heard while a yacht (The Newborn) is anchored off Santa Catalina Island (Los Angeles, California) in The Discovery. It is a medical thriller. The cover asks: “Can a birth 21 years in the past destroy a man’s life?” It can destroy a lot more than one life. The novel is a character study of people under extreme stress.** (Warning: It contains stark violence and is erotic.) I know, disgraceful, as I’m plugging one of my books … in a film-list blog.

* Burning Love (1972).

** One of the reasons I decided to partner on The Discovery was because I needed to play around with a number of leading and supporting players in a story that was a mixed-up mess over two decades. I’m a biographer, and Sand Creek and the Tragic End of a Lifeway is a much bigger mess to smoothly move between the historical people who drive the story to conclusion. I easily spend eight hours doing research to two hours writing nonfiction. Facts, facts, and more facts; mix them up with who is currently driving the story, and don’t fall on your face for believing errors (on purpose or not) in previously published works.

This is my sister, Linda Kraft, about an hour before she became Mrs. Greg Morgon in Long Beach, California, on 3dec1988. I took the wedding photos and had access to candids like this image. (photo © Louis Kraft 1988)

The following is for Robert/Hans and his Annette

Hans is a good friend, but he moves to Deutschland in July. My sister Linda Kraft-Morgon (she was an LA County Sheriff and an investigator for the LA County District Attorney’s Office) had huge law enforcement connections with Germany, and she and her husband, Greg Morgon (my bro for all time, and he retired as a lieutenant from the LA County Sheriff’s Department) visited often and their German associates visited them in SoCal. … Will I ever see Hans again? Doubtful. … There might be a research trip to England for the pirate Drake (which is almost spitting-distance close to Germany, and I love Eurorail), but if I don’t move to the southern coast of either Spain (research heaven!) or France a fair guess is that I will never return to Europe. … However, I did write an epic tragedy about Germany* (and, as almost always, my theme was racial and anti-war).

Jürgen Prochnow played the U-Boat commander in the great German anti-war film Das Boot (The Boat). In 1982 I played Miles Hendon in a 135-performance tour of The Prince and the Pauper in Northern California, and I choreographed the duel. When Das Boot opened in San Francisco I saw it without knowing anything about the plot. The film featured a lone U-Boat patrol. When the tour ended I fired Ed Menerth, my screenwriting agent. I had completed Wonder Boat in early 1981. He had told me, “I love it,” but he also told me that he couldn’t sell it as it was about racism, WWII, was a tragedy, and the hero was a U-Boat commander. … BTW, great performance by Prochnow. Oh, Das Boot made my top 50 (or will it be a top 60?) film list (which will be the topic for an upcoming blog). The struggle with 50 or 60 films is because certain films, which should be on this list will be dropped if only 50. One is John Ford’s The Searchers (1956). Ford’s American Indians are mostly faceless “savages.” My view on this? You don’t want to hear it, and certainly not if you love Ford’s work. However, John Wayne’s racist performance in The Searchers is magnificent, and because of his performance, and only because of his performance, this film belongs in my upcoming list, and I will figure out a way to include it.

* My best ever screenplay (agented, but not sold) dealt with the destruction of Germany during WWII as seen through the eyes of a U-Boat commander who wasn’t a Nazi (most U-Boat commanders refused to join the Nazi party but fought for their country with honor and with conscience). The title was Wonder Boat, and although the screenplay dealt with the various phases of the war and the U-Boat commander’s relationship with a Jewish woman (that’s right, a Jewish woman) the title referred to a U-Boat that was being developed, but the German high command’s hope that a fleet of these “boats” could prevent the inevitable never happened. The war ended before the first “Wonder Boat” launched for a combat mission. There is a copy of this script in the Louis Kraft Collection (Fray Angélico Chávez History Library, Santa Fe, New Mexico). … I still have all of my research. If finances go south, and I experience a forced exit from the USA, this story is a top contender to become a novel.

Let’s talk about something that means absolutely nothing

Huh? Sorry, but I’m back to the reason for writing this blog—film lists. … I know—who cares? Heck, I do now (thanks Robert, … I mean Hans), and I hope that some of you do too.

Annette and Robert Florczak at brother Richard Florczak’s great restaurant—Flame Pizzeria—in Reseda, California, on 24jun2017. A good night as I said goodbye to them along with a gathering of their friends. His beautiful Annette is so sweet and kind; Robert is one lucky man. … I sat with Adam Bendorf and his family and the producer of Robert’s last album and his lady. Good conversation all around, and best I got know Adam’s wife (Anna) and his oldest daughter, who sat next to me. For the record, Adam and I used to watch Flynn films at Robert’s apartment when he lived in Van Nuys and then have a round-robin discussion about the film we just viewed. Good times that I dearly miss. I took this picture of them just before I left, and we shared some good thoughts, one’s I’ll not forget. (photo by Louis Kraft; © Annette & Robert Florczak and Louis Kraft 2017)

I also know that Hans will not much care for the following list. … A few years back I sent him a 50-film list and he told me that he hadn’t seen most of the films on it. What goes around comes around as I hadn’t seen all of the films on his 50-film list. Love it, for it shows that even though we are talking about film … we’re also dealing with oranges and apples in what we (Hans/Robert & LK) have seen. If you haven’t viewed every film how can you make a top 50 (or top 60) list? (I can certainly do a list on Flynn as I have seen all of his films wherein he had leading roles except Murder at Monte Carlo (1935), a British film that was never released in the USA (and unfortunately may be a lost film); and Hello God (1951), an anti-war film, in which EF had the original negative destroyed as he thought that the subject matter, and perhaps the quality of the film, might hurt his career. I believe that the patched together film has screened in Europe (and supposedly a number of reels have been discovered and are being restored). My view: I certainly hope so.

The above makes it clear that opinions on any artistic creations (fiction, nonfiction, plays, films, TV, song and music, poetry, and art) can never be totally valid.

Top film lists and what they are

I’ve always been able to create a top 10 Errol Flynn film list (since my first Elvis list). It has made certain people grind their teeth and complain (to the point that I don’t think that they any teeth left, … just the nubs). Actually there are always Flynn films that are on the cusp of my list and could bump a current film and make the list. For some time I have avoided this by creating a follow-up Flynn list that included films 11-20. This is ridiculous and I don’t like it. Thus, the following will only include one Flynn list (top 12).*

* Upcoming blogs will focus on other film lists including a top-50 (or perhaps 60) without Flynn, and top-10 film lists of the following: 1) Drama, 2) Comedy, 3) Thrillers, 4) Action, 5) War, 6) Westerns, 7) Race, and 8) Swashbucklers. Dramas, Thrillers, Westerns, and films that deal with Race have plenty of contenders; the other categories are difficult to fill. Obviously sequels are coming.

Finally on to the main event, … Mr. Flynn.

Top 12 Errol Flynn films

The top six films are alphabetical and are not in order (for the record if I could only keep five Flynn films they would be Adventures of Don Juan, They Died with Their Boots On, The Sea Hawk, Gentleman Jim, and The Sun Also Rises). 

  1. Adventures of Don Juan, director Vincent Sherman, and w/Viveca Lindfors, Robert Douglas, Alan Hale, Jerry Austin, Romney Brent, Ann Rutherford, Raymond Burr, and Douglas Kennedy (1948)

    I think that it was Stan Maxwell, a good Flynn source and a better friend, who supplied Mr. Sherman’s address and phone number. This bit of information led to letters, phone calls, eventually a day meeting with Vincent wherein our conversation focused on Flynn and Don Juan. Afterwards, Vincent graciously answered follow-up questions that I had. All this information is locked away in a secure location, as are all of my other communications and transcriptions of interviews until I need them, including a couple of decades of contact with Olivia de Havilland (by the way, she is now Dame Olivia de Havilland). (photo in LK personal collection)

    As Adventures of Don Juan is alphabetically first I need to say something immediately: Flynn’s Juan de Maraña, Gentleman Jim Corbett, Mike Campbell, and George Armstrong Custer are my favorite performances by him. Flynn had his own personal choices and one was Corbett (I will deal with them in upcoming books). In regards to Don Juan, Flynn liked and respected John Barrymore, the great stage actor who became a major silent film star. My grandfather (Eugene Small) saw Barrymore star in Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. I had been told that he was amazed with Barrymore’s transformation from good to evil on the New York stage. One problem here: I can’t find any proof that Barrymore played the dual roles on stage, even though everyone on my mother’s side claimed that my grandfather did. He did play Robert Louis Stevenson’s famed Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde on film (1920), and my guess is that this is what he saw. Since my family is long gone (other than a cherished cousin that I haven’t seen in person since she was about eight years old), and she is wonderful but I’m a recluse or worse. My life revolves around Pailin and two others whom will remain unnamed. This is my life. Actually it was my father’s life during his last nine years after my brother’s death. There was a family across the street, along with three and a half people that were major to his life at that time (me, my brother’s best girlfriend of all time, the fellow who lived next door, and another person who can’t be named).

    Oops! I’m supposed to be on Flynn’s Don Juan. Guess what? Mr. Flynn apparently liked Mr. Barrymore’s silent portrayal as Juan. This meant one thing, he wanted to follow in the “Great Profile’s” footsteps, as he counted himself lucky to know and befriend this great actor. Yes, Flynn, who often trashed himself playing heroes, wanted to play the great Don on film.

    This is actually a tight shot of Flynn crossing blades and soon daggers with Douglas (who instantly became Flynn’s major swashbuckling nemesis even though he wasn’t very good swinging a rapier). This image, which is numbered, was taken by a staff photographer assigned to the film. … But what happened here? A good portion of the image is out of focus, there is a head in the foreground (an extra, someone watching the action?). This image—and with all its problems is magnificent even though Queen Margaret (Lindfors), King Philip III (Romney), and Don Sebastian (Austin) are out of focus—as it shows Flynn and Douglas in mortal combat. One will survive (and yes, the film is a tragedy). Douglas has yanked out his dagger and within seconds so will Flynn to parry the thrust. At this point in time the duel steps into another world of swashbuckling reality. (this torn, crinkled, and numbered image is in LK’s personal collection)

    And did he! When filming began in October 1947 Flynn not only understood who he was, but also what the public expected of him on film. His performance as Juan is sad; it’s full of charm and charisma that only he could deliver; full of a life lost and yet not forgotten; it is also full of laughs that are based distinctly upon his screen persona (yes, Flynn had no problem laughing at himself). The film Adventures of Don Juan belongs to Flynn and to no one else. He was able to combine his screen presence with his ongoing life and come up with a middle zone that presented who he was on film and in real life. Flynn’s Don Juan is heroic while also being tragic. In my opinion this was Errol Flynn’s best performance on film. This includes every other film in this list, and a major reason why each of these movies made the list was because of Flynn’s performances in them.

    It has been oft-stated that Flynn had to have short takes during the dueling scenes. If you have ever swung a blade and fought competition (and I have), let me tell you that you are feeling it after a 30-second exchange. Yes, Flynn’s smoking certainly impacted his stamina, but you know what? It is what is on film that counts—and all of Flynn’s dueling in Adventures of Don Juan is the best that I’ve seen on film. (The Sea Hawk’s final duel is second).

  2. This publicity image of Flynn and Lupino was published as a full-page color image in a 1947 movie magazine. While in junior high school and waiting for my mother to pick me up after a fencing lesson with the great Ralph Faulkner I spent my time in a large used book store next to his studio on Hollywood Blvd. The bookstore (sorry, but it is long gone and I don’t remember the name) had shelves and shelves of movie magazines from the 1940s and 1950s. I sat on the floor and turned pages. Magazines that featured Flynn I bought (I had money as I worked). A few years later I met a girl one year younger than I (Judy Groh) at a friend’s party at his parents’ house. We hit it off and she became my first girlfriend. In those days everything in my life was innocent. Back to Flynn, … I showed her this image. She laughed and laughed and laughed. She pointed at Flynn’s hair and laughed some more. This image is simply WBs publicity—it is tender and yet has a hint of eroticism. I don’t know when the image was shot (I haven’t researched this film yet) but I think that the image was taken after Escape Me Never was filmed for Flynn didn’t look like this in the film (if I’m wrong, it was taken before filming began). (photo in LK’s personal collection, and it is not a scan of the 1947 magazine image, which I still have)

    Escape Me Never, directed by Peter Godfrey and w/Ida Lupino, Eleanor Parker, and Gig Young (1947).

    I hated this film, absolutely hated this film when young. The last time I had seen it was perhaps thirty years before it was finally released as a Warner Bros. Archive print-on-demand film.
    The production value, as critics complained, could have been better and it was just as I remembered. But when I saw it recently I was overwhelmed by the flow of the plot, and more important, Flynn’s subdued performance as a composer. Flynn was hurt and angered by the reviews of his novel, Showdown (1946), at the time he filmed Escape Me Never, and worse this film would be pounded by critics, and this affected him in more ways than one. I don’t blame him for he provided one of his better film performances as a man torn between two women, as a man who wants to do right but finds himself weak, as a man who finally realizes who he is and what is important to him. As for Showdown, I’ve read it at least six times and it has been a page-turner on each reading. … Flynn and Lupino were friends, although I’m not certain when their friendship began, and it registers in Escape Me Never. For the record, and this should be known, actors and actresses usually perform better together when they are friends and/or are in a relationship. I’m not implying anything here, for as far as I know Ida and EF were friends and I believe good friends (but that was all). Also for the record, a man and a woman can be friends, good friends, and it has nothing to do with sexual intimacy.

    Sebastian Dubrok (Flynn) holds Picolo (as far as I know not credited; also, whenever possible producers try to hire twins) while a minister (Frank Reicher) marries him and Gemma Smith (Lupino). (photo in LK’s personal collection)

    All of the above said, this film is about a woman (Lupino) who totally loves her man (Flynn). He loves her too, but his classical compositions have gone no where and his focus is on success and not his small family, which also includes her infant son, Picolo. They are poor and from the wrong side of the family. Without giving anything away, Flynn is a musical genius. Enter Parker, and she has what Lupino doesn’t have. He is also weak. More, and as you and I know, reaching for the stars is a difficult thing to do. You succeed or you fail. When you fail, that is you or I (and I only speak here from my point of view) the results can be disastrous. This was a view of life that Flynn wanted to explore, and in my opinion he succeeded here. This film holds my interest from the first reel until the end, and it moves me in ways that none of his other films have ever done. As an added bonus the great composer Erich Wolfgang Korngold, who scored seven of Flynn’s films (including 1935’s Captain Blood; 1938’s The Adventures of Robin Hood; my favorite, 1939’s The Private Lives of Elizabeth and Essex; and 1940’s The Sea Hawk), created this absolutely marvelous score, which also included an incomplete ballet (Primavera).

  3. Gentleman Jim, directed by Raoul Walsh and w/Alexis Smith, Jack Carson, Alan Hale, Ward Bond, and William Frawley (1942)

    This is a video cover for Gentleman Jim. It is accurate, and is a pretty damn good representation of him in this this film. Warners, and not only for this film, but others, totally misrepresented what Flynn looked like in numerous films. This heinous stuff, and shame on Warners Bros., as Flynn didn’t have a mustache in this film even though their publicity sold him with a mustache (we’re talking major promotion here, including the 1942 USA one-sheet).

    Flynn wanted to play James J. Corbett, who would become the first heavy-weight boxing champion of the modern era. To this point in time boxing was flat-footed with charges at their opponents in the ring. Corbett would change that as he used his feet to avoid punches and counter-punched. The film is a light-hearted romp as Flynn’s cocky attitude upsets the rich as he strives to be accepted in society while rising in the boxing world (a lot of which was outlawed as the nineteenth century neared its end). The film is funny, fast paced and Flynn’s Gentleman Jim is a delight to watch. He trained with Mushy Callahan (a former welterweight champion) and was coached by sports writer and Corbett expert Ed Cochrane. Smith, a society woman, presented the perfect foil to Flynn’s attempts to climb in society. BTW Smith and Flynn were friends, and they make a dynamite combination in this film. Bond shined as heavyweight champ John L. Sullivan, who against betting odds, Corbett defeated at the climax of the film. Their scene together when Bond appears at Flynn’s celebration party is touching. Flynn, for the most part, was not doubled in the ring and the fight scenes really stand out. Luckily for Flynn Jack L. Warner was absent from the Warner Bros. lot during most of the filming and this allowed him to get away with murder while working on this film. Flynn constantly had his own idea of what lines were best for his characters, and often he changed lines during script development and during filming. When on set and shooting this is called “ad-libbing.” He was often called lazy for not learning his lines. Perhaps that happened at times, but not always and Flynn often had a hand in his dialogue. His reason for the changes was that he felt they improved his character. All of this will be documented in my books on Flynn. Flynn’s performance in this film was a revolution when viewing his acting capabilities, and better he pushes everything he knows about acting to the next level. … Jim Corbett is Flynn’s cockiest, assured, and most athletic persona on film.

  4. The Sea Hawk, directed by Michael Curtiz and w/Brenda Marshall, Claude Rains, Flora Robson, Alan Hale, Henry Daniell, Una O’Connor, and Gilbert Roland (1940)

    The 1940 1-sheet for The Sea Hawk (in LK personal collection)

    I’ve talked about The Sea Hawk for years, and I’ve made the comparisons to the pirate Drake’s life (see The pirate Francis Drake and Louis Kraft). I’m not going to repeat any of this here.

    All I’m am going to say is that by 1939 Errol Flynn had discovered who he was as a film actor. From this time forward he had control over his performances, and many of them—not all, but most—dwarfed every film role he performed in 1938 or earlier except for The Dawn Patrol (below) and Four’s a Crowd (which was in this list, but was bumped by That Forsyte Woman, 1949, below). This golden decade (actually eleven years) of Flynn’s acting (1939-1949) had a number of misses (that is average films for multiple reasons) but this eleven-year period contained most of his great acting performances (the only role outside of this timeframe was his portrayal as Mike Campbell in The Sun Also Rises, 1957). … I know, that for many this is pure heresy. It isn’t. If I extend this list to 15, you can bet that Captain Blood (1935) would make the cut (if for nothing else than the great slave auction at the beginning of the film), and this still gives me two other films (one would definitely be Four’s a Crowd and most-likely Silver River, 1948). But remember the key here is Flynn’s performances, the creative quality of the film, and not if the film was a mega hit, for this is something that I don’t care about.

    This duel with Gilbert Roland ends peaceably at the beginning of the film when Flynn takes the Spanish vessel that transports Spanish ambassador Claude Raines to Elizabeth I’s English court. But later in the film, Roland would have the upper hand on Flynn. For the record, Roland would also have leading roles in film, including That Lady with OdeH (1955). In this first duel in The Sea Hawk Flynn displays how much his sword capabilities have advanced since The Adventures of Robin Hood (1938). (photo in LK personal collection)

    We need to talk about Brenda Marshall here. She made one other film with Flynn, the decent comedy, Footsteps in the Dark (1941). She is okay in the comedy, and, again more heresy), she is absolutely fine as the Spanish lady in waiting who views Flynn as a pirate. Their scene in an English rose garden after Flynn has received a verbal rebuff from Queen Elizabeth I in front of the court. Robson was light-years better than Bette Davis’s psychotic and almost spastic mess of a queen in 1939’s The Private Lives of Elizabeth and Essex. BTW, Flynn was fine in Elizabeth and Essex, and Olivia de Havilland absolutely shined as Lady Penelope Gray, a small role that was part of her punishment for daring to pursue being cast in Gone with the Wind (1939).

    This scene was after Robson (Elizabeth I) verbally punished Flynn for attacking the King of Spain’s ship that transported his ambassador (Rains) and his niece (Marshall) to England. What Marshall doesn’t know here is that Flynn has since had a private interview with Robson and she has bought into his next piratical expedition to the New World. … It matters not, for this might be my favorite love scene of all time (and to this point in time Flynn is little more than a pirate that Marshall wants no contact with although she is happy that he wasn’t punished, that is sent to the Tower of London). Erich Wolfgang Korngold’s love theme for this scene is to die for; it is marvelous. (photo in LK personal collection)

    By 1940 Flynn was no longer the novice star of Captain Blood or the blooming mega-star of The Adventures of Robin Hood (1938) but a full-blown leading man who defined what a swashbuckling leading actor could do in a major pirate film. The Sea Hawk is Flynn’s film from start to finish and he is in total control whenever he is on screen, and it matters not if he confronts Robson’s Elizabeth or Marshall’s lady who spurns his advances or the evil Daniel whom Flynn will eliminate in an extraordinary duel at the end of the film. Flynn’s Geoffrey Thorpe is magnificent from the first time you see him before he launches an attack on a Spanish galleon.

  5. They Died With Their Boots On, directed by Raoul Walsh and w/Olivia de Havilland, Arthur Kennedy, Hattie McDaniel, Charley Grapewin, Sidney Greenstreet, Gene Lockhart, Stanley Ridges, and Anthony Quinn (1941)

    February 2008 American History cover. I wrote the cover story for this issue, and at that point in time it was the magazine’s all-time best selling issue (don’t know if this is still true).

    As I have made clear over the years this film has had a major impact on my life. I’ve written four articles about the film and I’ve spoken about it in Texas, Missouri, Montana, and California twice (I need to add Oklahoma to the list, as I think that they may buy into the idea). The best article was a cover story for American History in 2008. For the record, this film is fiction and yet it is so close to reality at times that it is scary. Warner Bros. had a long track record for shying away from facts and real historical people for the simple truth that they feared being sued.

    The errors in the film are massive but when you look at how closely some of it is to reality while being disguised there is a lot that holds up nicely. However, when it came to the battle of the Little Bighorn the writers and Walsh chose to deal with mythic legend and an heroic end with Flynn holding his saber defiantly. The film end happens in a valley as Crazy Horse (Quinn) has set up a trap and attacks the soldiers. No, no, and more no. Custer divided his force into four independent commands and the battle began when Major Marcus Reno (he isn’t in the film; actually none of Custer’s Seventh U.S. Cavalry officers are in it) crossed the Little Bighorn River (also not in the film) and moved to attack the southern end of the massive village.

    LK standing where Flynn-Custer’s small command marched to the Little Bighorn (13jul16). The west entrance to Lasky Mesa, a massive mountainous and valley area (in the Upper Las Virgenes Canyon Open Space Preserve), is on Victory Blvd. in Woodland Hills (a town in Los Angeles) in the San Fernando Valley. I’ve seen it printed that it is a seventy-mile drive from Universal Studios and worse that it took a day to get to the location from Warner Bros. (which is on the east side of the SFV). For the record I live three miles from Universal Studios and six miles from Warner Bros. I can make the drive to Lasky Mesa on surface streets in about an hour. Even with dealing with some dirt roads in 1941 this would have been a fairly easy “drive to” from the studio on a daily basis that September. … There are places in Lasky Mesa where a river could have flowed and if WB wanted to film Custer’s end on terrain similar to where it happened in southeast Montana Territory it could have been done. But, … there’s always a but; the film was over budget. … Robert Florczak took this image on a great day almost a year ago when I believe we braved 100-degree weather and he showed me some locations for several great films. (photo © Louis Kraft and Robert Florczak 2016)

    For the record, a lot of what has been published about this film in recent times is pure fantasy. Director Raoul Walsh, who directed Flynn for the first time in TDWTBO when EF made it clear to WBs that he would never again work with director Michael Curtiz, only to see their relationship end before the 1950s began. In my personal opinion the Walsh-directed Flynn films were much better than most of the Curtiz-directed Flynn films. … And better the Flynn persona would grow and change, and there would now be a dark side, but not yet.

    A publicity shot of Olivia and Flynn as they travel to the American frontier. (photo in LK personal collection)

    And the uniting of Flynn and de Havilland one last time—although neither of them knew this at the time—is a pure pleasure to watch as they work together and age in the film. They had been through a lot over the last six+ years both professionally and personally, and they certainly had their ups and downs in their relationship with each other. All this gave them a backstory that they could, and did, use as Mr. and Mrs. Custer. Their last scene in the film (but not the last scene they filmed together), was just before he marches toward the Little Bighorn River (again, there is no river in sight in the film) and destiny is so simple as she helps him prepare to go on campaign (a routine that they must have done every time he left on campaign) and yet is so poignant.*

    * Max Steiner did the music for the film, mixing period music with his composition. However, the love theme that he created for George and Libbie (the correct spelling of Elizabeth Custer’s nickname) is mixed with bugle calls as the command prepares to march to Montana Territory and with Garry Owen (which was actually the theme song of the Seventh U.S. Cavalry as chosen by Custer) as they say goodbye and he exits to destiny. This is by far my favorite scene of Olivia and Flynn together.

    LK with Olivia de Havilland at her home on 3jul2009; the third time that  I was with her. (photo © Louis Kraft 2009)

    I did open up a can or worms the first time I visited Livvie in her Paris home (2004). We talked a lot about this film and it being their last together (this was just something that happened as both were considered to costar in upcoming Warner Bros. films but it never happened as soon after she took the studio to court over her contract). At the beginning the TDWTBO conversation, she told me that “no,” she didn’t feel any different shooting this scene as opposed to others, but by the time it had gone deep into the night she came back to it for the third or fourth time. Surprisingly now it was suddenly different, for now she came up with a premonition … a premonition she now totally believes (and has since stated on camera).

  6. Uncertain Glory, directed by Raoul Walsh and w/Paul Lukas, Jean Sullivan, Lucile Watson, and Faye Emerson (1944)

    This Uncertain Glory (1944) video cover represents a tragic love story that should have had a happy ending. Jean Sullivan (above) delivered a very delicate and open performance. I found her different from most of the female leads in Flynn’s films, and honestly quite refreshing. Unfortunately she didn’t become a star, and I don’t know why. … Looking at this image, I have no clue if she had blue eyes (the film is in B&W). Looking at this same image I know damn well that Flynn’s eyes weren’t this color. … How many “artists” got this wrong? … I’d probably need a full page to document this error, which I’ve seen way-too-many times.

    Let’s begin by saying that Flynn’s portrayal as French criminal Jean Picard is one of my favorite performances by him of all time (and this has always been so). It’s restrained, and yet he allows the old Flynn persona to appear every now and again. The charm is present and so is the humor, and yet this film is a tragedy from the beginning. Worse, you care for the criminal Flynn from the get go and he is only alive as he has escaped the guillotine when German planes bombed France during WWII and destroyed the prison where he was about to be executed. He is a con-artist who’s only out for himself.

    You know where the film is heading and yet you don’t want it to get there—at least I don’t. I want a happy ending as the story has redemption written all over it. … Actually it comes down to a question of how valuable is our life if we could trade it and save 100 innocent people from death. … What would I do? What would you do? What will Flynn’s character do? The film is a drama, and there is no action, and yet I’m on the edge of my seat every time that I watch this film.

    The bottom six films are in numerical order.

    I know that some people will consider me little more than an unfaithful cretin as major Flynn films, such as Captain Blood (1935), The Charge of the Light Brigade (1936), and The Adventures of Robin Hood (1938) didn’t make my list, and for multiple reasons. But again, I choose from a lot of criteria, and the following six films meet my criteria. I’m not going to discuss why these three great films didn’t make my list (and all three are great), and that Flynn did with de Havilland, … and trust me that they will be discussed in Errol & Olivia. But if you’d like to know more (about two of these films that didn’t make the list), see Errol Flynn & Louis Kraft; the connection and a view.

    Although I won’t discuss top film lists in Errol & Olivia, I will deal with all eight of their films in detail. What I say may surprise you and perhaps even shock you. … Hey folks, this is a comin’. Alas, Errol & Olivia will only deal with Olivia’s and Errol’s introduction to Hollywood, their life and times during their films together, and a very long epilogue. Trust me, for every hour it takes me to complete this manuscript will create a new understanding for you of these magnificent human beings who happened to be damned-good film actors. It will change a lot of what you currently thought you knew about them, correct egregious errors, and better it will be a book that I hope you read time and again. I know, the preceding statement is egotistical, but a writer must have an attitude when he dares to challenge fiction sold as nonfiction.

  7. Virginia City, directed by Michael Curtiz, and w/Miriam Hopkins, Randolph Scott, Alan Hale, Guinn (Big Boy) Williams, and Humphrey Bogart (1940)

    Virginia City has everything I want in a western, and this basically starts with that there aren’t any “bad guys” other than a supporting character played by Humphrey Bogart, who was still a few years shy of super-stardom. This film, this western, deals with the Civil War on the western frontier. … As I have always claimed in my nonfiction writing, “there are two sides to every story,” and it is certainly true in this film. Virginia City had a great cast, and that included Hopkins and Scott—two actors I wish that Flynn could have worked with again in the future. It was never to be. Our loss. (this is a cropped image of a photo in the LK personal collection)

    Over and over and over again I have heard complaints why de Havilland didn’t play the lead role in this film. There are at least two reasons why, and one is that there is no way she could have danced in a saloon and made the audience buy it. Actually the anger is even larger, as de Havilland’s fans refused to accept Hopkins’ performance. Why? Some said, “Because she was older than Flynn.” Who cares! I don’t! Hopkins played a dance-hall siren who enticed every miner, drunk, and soldier in Virginia City, Nevada, which was a Southern stronghold during the American Civil War. … And best Flynn was infatuated with her singing and dancing too. This film required a raw sexuality that Hopkins provided, for if there was no Flynn-Hopkins draw to each other this film had no chance of working (and to place a target on my back, it would have had zero chance with de Havilland). At this late date I have one major regret here, and that is that Flynn and Miriam Hopkins didn’t work together again. (Those of you who hate this comment, sharpen your daggers and sabers but remember that I’m damned good with both.) I do know that by this time film audiences wanted Flynn’s costar to be de Havilland (but let me tell you that a lot more goes into this than meets the eye). … Can we call TDWTBO a western? I think so. If yes, what is Flynn’s second best western. The LK view: Virginia City with Dodge City a distant third.

  8. Objective Burma, w/Henry Hull, George Tobias, and William Prince (1945)

    After the raid on the radar station Flynn split his command. They had a set meeting place. Flynn and those with have just reached this destination. (photo in LK personal collection)

    More than any other film, this non-heroic picture gives us Flynn at war but not with his usual screen persona. He is reserved, and focused on completing a task: Parachuting into Japanese- controlled Burma during WWII and destroying a radar station. As Flynn and his men slowly inch toward their target the atmosphere is tense, and understandably so as everyone is aware that one mistake, just one slip-up, could mean disaster as there was no backup. The dense jungle that they cut their way through is alive with the sounds of nature, and it helps build tension. Some of Flynn’s command are typical cliché characters, but for me this was okay as you get to know them, their hopes, their desires. Without giving too much away, the film is just half over when the attack force reaches its target.

    Detail of an image of Errol Flynn and Henry Hull during a lunch break during the filming of Objective Burma. Let me add something here, and it is totally opinion. When working on film I ate with people that I liked. I certainly can’t talk for anyone else, but this is what I did. (photo in LK personal collection)

    A reporter (Hull) accompanies the mission; older than everyone else he struggles to keep up, but his performance is decent as he vents his views on what he sees. More, it presents a Flynn who shows an emotion that I don’t think he ever shared in any of his other films (the closest might be The Sun Also Rises, 1957), and the sadness that affects him when he watches something happen rips my guts up every time I see the scene. I first saw this film on TV in the late 1960s or very early 1970s at my then-acting manager’s house in Hollywood. His name was Coy Bronson, and in the 1950s and early 1960s he worked with and knew some the then-film greats. I knew that he had worked with Montgomery Clift and I was interested to hear what he had to say. Nothing. He clammed up and said it was none of my business. If I dare to share what I saw and learned during my time with him in an upcoming memoir you will be shocked. On the night of my first viewing of Flynn’s Objective Burma we had gone out to dinner before watching the film in his living room as we sipped drinks. Bronson didn’t know Flynn but had a very negative attitude toward the film. My guess then (and now) was that he still had anger when his acting career didn’t take off. At this time he managed Samuel French’s Hollywood office (they were then leading play publisher in the USA; don’t know about now) and directed plays at the Pasadena Playhouse (Charley’s Aunt was one that I saw).

  9. That Forsyte Woman, directed by Compton Bennett and with Greer Garson, Walter Pidgeon, Robert Young, and Janet Leigh (1949

    Flynn getting rough with wife Greer Garson. (photo in LK personal collection)

    To begin with this film bridges the gap between Gentleman Jim and The Sun Also Rises (see above and  below) in multiple ways: 1) Period-piece plot construction, 2) Ensemble-cast performances, and 3) A real grasp of time and place. But it also had one additional element that was first displayed in Silver River with Ann Sheridan, 1948, and later in The Sun Also Rises, and that is a Flynn, totally foreign to what his fans expected of his films (there were other films at the end of his career that also provided this—most notably Too Much, Too Soon, 1957, when Flynn played John Barrymore). Like The Sun Also Rises, this film’s leading characters all work well with each other and their performances (along with a first-class supporting cast, read minor supporting players, all capture the culture and class-separation during the ending decades of the 19th century. This achievement was a combination of casting, directing, editing, and the result is extraordinary. The film is based upon John Galsworthy’s The Man of Property, the first of a trilogy of books that are now known as The Forsyte Saga. Flynn is this man of property and one of his treasured possessions is his-long pursued wife (Garson). What Flynn had created in Silver River he pushes to the next level. He’s ruthless, he’s jealous, he’s possessive, he’s in love, but he doesn’t know how to experience or show love, … much less make a relationship work. He’s clueless! But this is because he is a man of his times. Flynn’s performance is riveting, and so is Garson’s, Pidgeon’s, Young’s, and Leigh’s, and these five actors are first class in this film.

    A candid of Flynn and Robert Young, who is absolutely marvelous in this film. (photo in LK personal collection)

    As you can guess by now, That Forsyte Woman is a tragedy but I don’t want to share any of the details of the film for if you haven’t seen it you need to experience it first hand. Like many people who love Flynn’s film acting I didn’t much care for this film, actually early on I dismissed it. At this point in time someone should hit me in the head with a baseball bat for my prejudice against the film. All I can say is that I was an idiot when younger. Flynn’s performance is pristine! It was F—ing Oscar worthy. Shame on the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences! This film, like The Sun Also Rises, is a mix and match of human beings at one point in time and place. They are who they are, and because of who they are, they react to situations predictably. Without giving away the plot I can’t expose what happens, but trust me for if you view this film with an open mind (in regards to Flynn) it is one that will grab your attention from beginning to end. Not many films do this for me.

  10. The Dawn Patrol, directed by Edmund Goulding and w/Basil Rathbone, David Niven, Donald Crisp, and Melville Cooper (1938)

    (1938 poster in LK personal collection)

    Joanne Woodward, an Oscar winner, felt that Flynn’s performance as Captain Courtney was perhaps the closest he came to playing himself on film. I totally agree with her (see the best documentary that I’ve seen on Flynn’s life and film career for more of Joanne’s comments about him; The Adventures of Errol Flynn, 2005). I think that I should say that until modern times (and that is decades after Robert Redford’s poorly executed film The Great Waldo Pepper (1976), I haven’t liked any WWI arial films until I saw two modern films: Flyboys w/James Franco, Jennifer Decker, Jean Reno, and Martin Henderson (2006); and The Red Baron with w/Matthias Schweighofer and Lena Headey (2008, but not released in the USA until 2010). Flynn’s film is definitely dated, but this statement is totally based upon what could be created on film in 1938.  … Do not doubt it, Flynn and Niven were close friends moving into the beginning of the 1940s, and this definitely gave both of their performances in Dawn Patrol extra spark and a relationship that was totally believable on film. I don’t know what happened between them, but something did for in the 1940s there is no mention of the end of their relationship, but it did end. Flynn and Niven are totally alive in all their scenes. More, they are rebels who don’t like being controlled by authority (Rathbone’s Major Brand). They are not James Dean (thank goodness!), but they are rebels and act and react to what is in their souls during this heinous time of WWI when human life didn’t mean much (hell, this is little more than a small piece of humankind and civilization). This is basically a character study of pilots in an extreme situation wherein they had a job to perform but with a life expectancy that wasn’t long. Flynn shines as Captain Courtney.

  11. Dodge City, directed by Michael Curtiz, and w/Olivia de Havilland, Bruce Cabot, Allan Hale, Guinn (Big Boy) Williams, Frank McHugh, Victor Jory, and Ann Sheridan (1939)

    Flynn at the beginning of the film. (photo in LK personal collection)

    I’ve spent a lot of time with Dodge City elsewhere in these blogs, as I really like this film. What I like most—other than Flynn’s introduction to a genre that he felt totally miscast in—was Olivia de Havilland’s absolutely negative attitude that she brought to the film. She was angry, and rightfully so, for how Warner Bros. dissed her after her breakout performance in Gone with the Wind (1939), which included her first Oscar nomination. Better, she allowed her anger to direct her performance (and not her time on set, which happened during The Private Lives of Elizabeth and Essex).

    Publicity photo for Dodge City. (photo in LK personal collection)

    My view: She was a total delight in Dodge City. Back to Flynn. He was clueless to who migrated to the American frontier in the 1860s. Clueless! Do you know how many Irishmen were on the American frontier? Flynn didn’t. The character he played was Irish. He wasn’t a lone Irishman; he was one of thousands. Oh yeah, and you can take this comment to the bank. Dodge City spreads over time and during it we see a life growth in Flynn’s character. Better, the film moves forward in a logical plot that must reach resolution. The film sparkles in each act except for the climax. Here, the villains are disposed of way-too-easily (and I’m being kind with this statement). These words led to a Virginia CityDodge City flip while writing this blog (actually Virginia City was higher on the list and Dodge City dropped lower).

  12. The Sun Also Rises, directed by Henry King and w/Tyrone Power, Ava Gardner, Mel Ferrer, Eddie Albert, Juliette Gréco, and Robert Evans (1957)
    According to Patrice Wymore, Flynn’s third and final wife, she told him that he didn’t have to be drunk to play a drunk. She also hinted that he didn’t want to do the film as he would have fourth billing, but that she talked him into taking the part. For the record, this film is based upon Ernest Hemingway’s novel of a lost generation after WWI and it bores me to tears every time I read it. Reviews pinged the film as all the leading players were too old to play the roles. You know what? I don’t care. … Power, an actor who I usually find terribly leaden in his screen performances, plays a writer who is impotent due to wounds suffered during the war. But his life is about to change when Ferrer becomes an unwelcome visitor in his office. Power refuses to join him for a night in Paris, France, as has a date with a woman and he doesn’t know her name (Gréco, who calls herself a working woman). BTW, Gréco’s part is small but it just oozes with sexuality during every minute she’s on screen. … The “date” moves from day into the Paris nightlife. Power is thrown for a loop when he stumbles upon Ferrer (good stuff as Gréco turns an introduction into chaos), but it gets worse when he sees Gardner (who he has had a past life with), and even though it has no where to go she can’t take her eyes off him.

    This is a detail from a scene that Eddie Albert is also in. Flynn (left) is getting his shoes shined (something he does more than once in the film. He is with Gardner and Power. (photo in LK personal collection)

    Power is sick of the entire situation, but has an out for his friend (Albert) and he have plans to travel to Pamplona, Spain, to see the bullfights.This is just the beginning of a character study of four men and Gardner, who is a flittering bird that can’t control herself while still caring for Power. Surprise of surprises—Ferrer told Gardner of Power’s destination, and she, Ferrer (who has already lost Gardner’s affections) and her broke, drunk, and on again and off again “fiancé” whom she’ll never marry (Flynn) are already Pamplona. This is an ensemble cast that works well together. They are at all times full of life, regardless if they are pleased or angry or experiencing the world of bullfighting in Henry King’s gorgeous-looking film.*

    * For the record, when in elementary school, I saw this film as a second part of a double bill; I didn’t know who the heck Flynn was at that time but loved his performance.

    In February 2000 Ferrer kindly answered some of my questions about Flynn when they worked together. Don’t think I’ll share any of them here, other than to say that everything he said about Flynn during the filming of The Sun Also Rises was positive. They will eventually see print in an upcoming book.

    This is near the end of the film. From left: Mel Ferrer, Errol Flynn, Ava Gardner, and Eddie Albert. (photo in LK personal collection)

    The running of the bulls is delightful fun when Flynn and Albert get caught in it. Their rapport on film is a standout in The Sun Also Rises. But the problems in place since the beginning of the film grow in Pamplona, and Flynn, who is love with Gardner but sick of Ferrer hanging around, and finally of an-up-and-coming bullfighter (Evans) who Gardner chooses for her next lover. … Although the focus is on Flynn films, I want to say that this cast worked well together and had well-defined characters without nary an unbelievable moment (the only exception being Evans, but he is okay).

    Flynn photographed by Bruce Davidson as used on the rear dust jacket cover for the first edition of Flynn’s My Wicked, Wicked Ways (image © Esquire, Inc. 1958)

    Flynn gave a magnificent performance and I don’t give a hoot if he was drunk or sober when he was on camera. He was charming, funny, drunk, sarcastic, hurt, and at the same time his performance was terribly touching. There is a scene near the end of the film between Flynn (sitting on a bed) and Power (standing). They are basically saying goodbye (even though there are a couple of more scenes of them together), but there is much more here for when Power exits the room and the camera holds on Flynn we see a man who has lived life but has nothing. This reminds me of the great image of Flynn on the first edition of his memoir (My Wicked, Wicked Ways, 1959). Is Flynn an image for all of us as our lives near conclusion? At times I think yes (at least for me*). … In my opinion this was by far his best performance during the decade of the 1950s.

    * For those of you who think I have a negative attitude on life I want to share the following. … On May 31 I told my pulmonary specialist that I planned to live to 130. He chuckled and said that he did too.

Finally … 

Errol Flynn was a great film actor. He was natural at a time of over-acting. More, he was a human who could easily fit into our modern world of a mix of colors and race, for one simple reason—he wasn’t racially prejudiced and accepted people of all races as equal (and I can prove this).

— Louis Kraft

The pirate Francis Drake and Louis Kraft

Website & blogs © Louis Kraft 2013-2017

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


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

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

Centuries!

The LK introduction to the pirate Drake

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Racism in the 1580s and in LK’s life

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

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

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

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

Back to the Dragon …

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Who was Francis Drake?

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

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

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

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

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

The Golden Hinde II under full sail.

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

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

“I vote for Drake! Please?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

Knighted and a national hero

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

— Louis Kraft

Sand Creek and a Louis Kraft book update

Website & blogs © Louis Kraft 2013-2017

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


Kraft is slow because he wants to research
everything that makes it into his books. This takes time,
a lot of time. At times it is an ungodly amount of time
and yet it must happen before l can deliver a
manuscript to my editor.

I’d like to make a lot of money on my freelance writing, but that
isn’t the objective. What I really want is to write books that have value
and will outlive me. This is my goal, and it has always been my
goal. … The future will decide if I succeed or fail.

You may ask why I have so often talked about time.
The answer is simply that it is key to all of our lives.
For me, the clock is ticking in overtime.

I have work to complete …
and Ladies to protect.

This blog features Rocky Mountain News editor William Byers & Ned Wynkoop

Oops!!!! Sometimes it seems that nothing is easy in my life.

Dumb ol’ Kraft thought that William Byers would be a slam dunk. Since I just used a basketball term I guess that I should continue with the sport that has given me a lot of pleasure during this century. Let’s just say that I thought that Byers would be an easy layup. No-no-no!!!

This image was taken on 5mar2017. My face was lighted by a bay window while the two images on the wall were in almost total darkness. The top image is the poster for the publication of the Wynkoop book. My friend and editor Chuck Rankin gave it to me in 2011. The bottom image is of me as Wynkoop in Ohai, Calif., in 2002. I have been ripped by supposed friends for only writing about one subject—Wynkoop. Pure BS!!!! I’ve written two books about Gatewood and the Apaches and one about Wynkoop. Nothing else needs to be said, other than I need to address this accusation by a so-called writer who is no longer my friend. I also need to address real-life threats upon my life that are heinous. I will someday in the future. (photo © Louis Kraft 2017)

When I started my current inter-library loan request I was shocked. The Los Angeles Public Library system is huge (100 branches, and the main branch in downtown LA is magnificent). There were no biographies on Mr. Byers, who was one gutsy fellow, and better one of the most important figures during Denver City’s birthing years. He knew what he wanted for the city, for Colorado Territory, and eventually for statehood. Byers shot for the moon and he had no problem going after his competition or those who opposed him. … I have a T-shirt that simply says: pen > sword. I agree with this, and I think that William Byers would have also. Byers was not a man who carried a gun and shot people, but he had guts and then some. I think that if I had had the chance to have met him that we would have gotten along as long as I didn’t oppose his plans. If I did, woe to Kraft for whatever good press he might have given me would have gone up in smoke quickly.

Those of you who have read Ned Wynkoop and the Lonely Road from Sand Creek (OU Press, 2011) know who William Byers was. For those of you who haven’t read my book on Wynkoop and who are clueless of who Byers was I hope the following introduces you to him. … I hope that the following introduces you to a magnificent man who had decided to publicize the new land that also happened to be to east of the Rocky Mountains in an area that would eventually become the boom town of Denver City. He, like Ned Wynkoop, would face many adversities for his views and, like Wynkoop’s, could have led to his death on numerous occasions.

Byers and Wynkoop began their relationship when they met in Omaha, Nebraska Territory, in early January 1859. At this time Wynkoop provided details about the gold fields near the confluence of the South Platte River and Cherry Creek, but these details were mostly based upon rumors as mining was then on hold until the following spring when temperatures warmed. Byers gobbled up what he heard as he was then writing a book that publicized the so-called “Pike’s Peak Region.” It and other books would send hordes of men west in the hope of becoming rich. Most would fail.

This is a variation of an image that I created of Wynkoop for an article I wrote for Custer and His Times Book Five. “Ned Wynkoop’s Lonely Walk Between the Races” was published in 2008. The art has appeared in four or five publications, with the most important being an article that I wrote for Wild West magazine, “When Wynkoop was Sheriff,” which was published in April 2011. Again, this is a variation, for the image printed in Wild West was an oval and it wasn’t a duotone. (art © Louis Kraft 2007)

Byers and Wynkoop hit it off that January of 1859. It wasn’t long after their meeting that Byers would set off for the gold fields; he arrived in Denver City in April 1859 and began publishing the Rocky Mountain News soon after. Wynkoop, who had braved the dead of that 1858-1859 winter reached civilization shortly after meeting Byers. He presented the Denver City Town Company’s claim only to fail and not secure the reason for his trip. There was one thing about Wynkoop. Like Byers, he never turned his back on what he thought right, and he refused to quit even though the bid had failed. Wynkoop continued to push for the town company; he also negotiated with the St. Charles Town Company, whose his land group had claim-jumped. Even at this early age Wynkoop was good with words, had charm, and prevailed in merging the two land development companies.

Upon his return to Denver City in fall 1859 Wynkoop and Byers became friends even though Ned survived by the seat of his pants while Byers and his wife Elizabeth socialized with the elite of the booming town.

This would soon hit the fan when Byer’s wife went ballistic with Wynkoop’s future lady. For some reason Byers refused to take sides in this altercation. Actually Byers often allowed Wynkoop to get away with his transgressions wherein if someone else had did what Ned had Byers would have attacked that person in print. To me it appears that the two men had a good friendship to the point that Byers mostly turned his back on his friend’s actions and mostly kept those that stepped outside the law out of the press. But then that terrible event of November 1864 happened, and Wynkoop, then an officer in the First Colorado Volunteer Cavalry but not present when Chivington’s command attacked the Cheyenne and Arapaho villages at Sand Creek on 29nov1854, refused to keep his opinions silent. Byers had been able to turn his back to a lot of his friend’s antics and indiscretions but not his vocal view that innocent men, women, and children had been murdered and butchered.

This image dates to April 2012 and the Western Heritage Awards weekend in Oklahoma City. My article, “When Wynkoop was Sheriff” (Wild West, April 2011) won a Wrangler, which is a cool bronze statue of a cowboy on a horse. This was a fun time with friends and people that I just met. Even though my connection with Wynkoop is deep and ongoing (and I do publicize our connection), to claim that he is the only un-racial person I write about is a joke. I’ve written two books about Charles Gatewood, one about George Armstrong Custer, and when I complete my trilogy on Errol Flynn I will written more about him than anyone else. To date I have written one book about Wynkoop (although he will be a key player in Sand Creek and the Tragic End of a Lifeway). Two books are planned on Kit Carson and two on the pirate Francis Drake. Those of you who have no clue of what you talk about—and I’m pointing my finger at a writer who runs off at the mouth without knowing anything—you need to get educated, you need to do a little research, you need to prepare before you say a lot about nothing. Period! (photo © Ownbey Photography 2012)

Friends—good friends—became enemies. For all time. LK has been there and done that. Why? How? I don’t know the answer, but with the drop of a quarter good friends, people who I thought were friends until the end of time changed colors, and attacked with a vengeance and a hatred beyond imagination. They were friends of long standing and suddenly they bared their fangs and struck to kill. …

I have not yet survived the shock, or have recovered from the shock of vicious verbal and written attacks of hatred. Most likely I never will. There’s a hole in my life that can never be repaired, never become whole again.

NEVER!

What I have experienced I am certain that Ned Wynkoop had also experienced. The shock in my life was not as extreme as the shock that he lived through for he knew people who were murdered and I only dealt with egotism, stupidity, and love turned into venom. How can a person I liked and respected for decades turn into a viper whose sole goal was to belittle another’s writing career? How can people that I have been close to create lies and then believe them as truth? How do I—or they—survive this? … We don’t. It’s just like seeing fresh roadkill lying in a broken clump with blood seeping onto the pavement. An innocent life had ended for no reason other than being at the wrong place at the wrong time.

LK as Ned Wynkoop viewing the butchered remains of the Sand Creek dead when he visited the massacre site in 1865, as photographed by my good friend, writer, historian, and editor Johnny D. Boggs in December 2008 during a dress rehearsal in Cheyenne, Oklahoma.

These are scenes that I have experienced and I have never forgotten. I’m certain that Wynkoop’s and Byers’ experience was much harsher on both of them than mine has been.

Wynkoop was not me, … nor am I him, yet we are joined between the centuries because of our views on race and racial equality (and not because we had good relationships that flamed out and burned). Does that make him evil … or me evil? Without blinking an eye—No!

Research is mandatory to writing a good book. No real research and a “so-called” nonfiction book is basically bullshit. That is crap, and let me tell you that there are a ton of these pieces of shit published every year. All I can say is: “Shame on these authors!” … “Shame on them!” for their goal was book sales and to hell with truth or reality. You do not want to know my opinion of these cretins for it really isn’t printable.

Where am I headed? I’ll tell you …

Suddenly easy research on Editor Byers has gone belly up. This cannot be for William Byers must be a leading player in my manuscript, even when he is AWOL in book print. He was a major part of my pitch and I have no intention of deserting him or his cause. Trust me. This man had a vision for a new land, and it was a good vision if we view his roadkill attitude of taking no prisoners in print from his point-of-view.

Know this, I don’t give up. I want Arapaho chief Left Hand to be as large as possible. I also want William Byers to be a major presence in the Sand Creek manuscript. … Hint, hint, hint. Ha-ha-ha. … I know the answer but I ain’t a tellin’.

OU Press editor-in-chief Chuck Rankin speaking at the Western Heritage Awards banquet in April 2012. (photo © Ownbey Photography 2012)

Last December I had a great phone conversation with Chuck Rankin, who had initially pitched me on writing about Sand Creek. It took us two years before we agreed upon a vision for the book and for me to create a 37-page proposal (that Chuck reviewed in progress and in which he had great input). Going into the project I knew I had bitten off a huge bite, but that would be worth all the wrong turns, dead ends, and honestly the struggle to use a select group of players drive a non-biography to conclusion. … I don’t get headaches; never. That was then. Now is now, and now I get headaches. But then perhaps this is only because I have fallen on my head way too often.

I have an angle to follow. It is not where you might think. It is not where I would have ever guessed. But it is close to home. My fingers are crossed that I can make my pitch and that my desire is fulfilled. I’ll soon know, but not you for you will have to wait. Sorry, but that’s just life in the real world.

But an unforeseen problem

As mentioned above, I failed to locate a biography of William Byers in the Los Angeles Public Library’s 100 branches. Abebooks.com, which I often use for research, also had no hits. Ditto Amazon.com. At the moment I have a zero mark on landing a major biography of one of the most important players in Denver and Colorado Territory’s early years. Why? WHY?

I have some great primary sources on Mr. Byers. Hell, a week doesn’t go by when I don’t have my nose pressed against my computer screen reading an issue of the Rocky Mountain News. Someday this will cause me to go blind. Don’t believe me, read the sucker, that is the RMN, without glasses or a magnifying glass. Byers’ paper that he used to conquer all who opposed his vision is a magnificent document. Magnificent as long as you understand the paper’s stance and viewpoint. … That’s right, for sometimes you must read between the lines or more important question what you have just read.

Heck, the Los Angeles Times is a magnificent newspaper—today, in 2010, and in 1941 or 1937 or before. This does not mean that I buy what the paper has printed in well over a century sight unseen. Actually, just like I challenge the Rocky Mountain News, I also challenge the LA Times, and I do use it for historical research, today’s events, and even the paper’s selection of cartoons, which are first class (and often hit the target dead center).

This is an artistic rendering of the west coast of Costa Rica. It could have been the southern coasts of Spain or France, or, if I eliminated the water and changed some of the colors, New Mexico. … I love Los Angeles. It has more culture and artistic events than anywhere else in the USA, and that includes NYC and Santa Fe, which is my favorite city in America. Moreover, and much more important, Los Angeles has more people of ethnic origin than any city in the USA, and even more important has more Thai people than any city in the USA (and if you add all the Thai population in the other cities stretched across our great country together LA still remains number one). This is a major fact for my lady, and the major reason for us to not leave this great city. Put mildly, Los Angeles is our home and we don’t want to move. That said I constantly study Costa Rica and New Mexico. The future? Someday we’ll know. (art © Louis Kraft 2015)

On 20mar2017 the Los Angeles Times led with “Trump’s immigration plan faces obstacles,” by Don Lee (pA1+). If you read the article and dig, just a little, you will see that the threat is much more than to just immigrants without papers and to immigrants with no criminal records and are in the U.S. as it offers them a much better life. … Actually the threat is frightening and it is much larger than you might expect.

This is one of my favorite images of my cowgirl, my lady, my best friend, my love, and my wife (although she wasn’t my wife when I took this photo in the front yard of Tujunga House on 7nov2013). (photo © Louis Kraft and Pailin Subanna 2013)

In my freelance writing I try to challenge everything that I discover and read and discuss with my network of writers, historians, editors, artists, and other creative people. The thoughts and ideas are lively. Many have helped me, and I hope that I have helped some of them. I use my network to not only widen my knowledge but to keep up our friendships. Besides some of what I learn or now understand might eventually make it into a talk, article, or book. … I also try to do this with my every-day life and world, but most of this I do on my own. I believe that eventually the United States will regain its senses and most of this ugliness that is currently in vogue will begin to fade away. If perchance it doesn’t make a major U-turn, most of my adult life will have been lived in vain and all that you and I have seen change for the good will have been for naught. What does that say about our time walking this earth?

A William Byers strikeout

At the moment I feel like one of the Major League Baseball players that whiff (that is strike out) 200 or more times every season while justifying their failure to hit the baseball and their piss-poor .245 batting average means nothing as they belted 37 balls over the fence (that is 37 home runs). Give me a break! I’ve seen great ballplayers perform on TV and in person, and there aren’t many that are great. One was Duke Snider of the Brooklyn Dodgers (who, and luckily for me, moved to Los Angeles when the Dodgers deserted Brooklyn, New York, after the 1957 season).

The signature to LK was on the cover of a magazine that printed a feature on the Duke by yours truly. I would write numerous articles about him, but when I pitched him to co-author his autobiography I stuck out for he had already contracted with writer Bill Gilbert. … I spent a fair amount of time with the Duke during a few years in the 1980s. He was a good man, gracious, and I treasure our time together. Not bragging, and I’m not a big fan of celebrity signatures, but I’ve got a lot of the Duke’s. (A side note on another great player, Barry Bonds: His swing was so compact and smooth. Regardless if he took drugs or not and I’m not going to state what I believe about this, he belongs in the Baseball Hall of Fame. Yes, he certainly grew larger during the second half of his career, and the extra muscle certainly helped his home run output. But he still had to hit the baseball, and if you’ve never attempted to hit a ball that is coming at you at 90+ miles per hour you have no idea of how difficult it is to do.)

I hate feeling like that ball player who hits .245 when he’s lucky. And I’m not talking about money or poor performance. Rather I’m racking my brain trying to figure out how I’m going to make Byers fully dimensional. … At the moment I have more strikeouts than hits, and this isn’t acceptable.

I know that a Byers’ bio exists and I hope that I’ll be able to see it. If not, Mr. Byers won’t get too much press in future LK blogs. A shame, for it would be fun to challenge him at times. And especially so, since I already know that he wouldn’t meet me on the field of honor at 10 paces with revolvers in our hands—something that John Simpson Smith would not have blinked an eye before making or accepting such a challenge.

This image was published in “When Wynkoop was Sheriff” in the April 2011 issue of Wild West. William Byers is standing in the upper right. This article was almost never published. When I saw a proof I wasn’t pleased. It had but two images of Ned Wynkoop in the feature, and the portrait on the first page of the article was dinky. I had suggested most of the images in the article, including two of William Byers. I spoke with the person in charge of the images and told her that I wanted the above group shot removed so that the portrait of Wynkoop on the first page could grow in size. She told me that the design was complete and nothing could be changed. I restated what I wanted. She refused to budge and the phone call went downhill. Finally I said that if the portrait wasn’t enlarged it wouldn’t appear in the magazine. She told me to talk with Greg Lalire, and then hung up. Greg L is a great editor, and probably the major reason behind Wild West’s success for decades. He is also my friend. I didn’t call him. Two days later he called me and asked if I had a problem? “No,” I said, “but one of your coworkers has a problem.” He already knew what was going on; still we talked it through. … I want to say this up front, Greg has done everything possible to print my stories over the years, and he didn’t desert me at this critical point. … A few days later he called again and said that he had cut the other image of Byers. I saw another proof. My art had grown but not completely—still I was pleased. The Wynkoop article saw print and out of nowhere it won a major award, the Wrangler.

Does this make Byers a coward? Absolutely not! He was a brave man who put his life at risk day in and day out. … A little change of subject: Los Angeles has returned to its modern-day version of Dodge City. That is people are again gunned down or knifed to death at an alarming rate. I haven’t been saving these articles in the LA Times for it seems that almost every day another one or two or three or more people die violently (and many of them are innocent bystanders, and that includes infants, children, women, and men). Will their murderers be apprehended, brought to trial, and convicted? The answer is sadly not always yes.

This is a sad state of affairs, but this is nothing when compared to the dark-dark days that California will soon face. Although the Golden State isn’t a country I’ve seen it listed as the sixth richest economical area in the world. Well that bold claim may not hold up too long if the presidential prejudice and anger that is aimed at destroying its economy becomes reality. … That said, I’m totally against California becoming a separate country (as many idiots are proposing and pushing to get onto an upcoming ballot).

I have a lot of favorite images of my lady, and some of them are two-shots. This photo is one that I really like (it is framed and in our living room). This image dates to 13nov2013. We were enjoying the opening of the Lily Pad Thai Spa & Massage in Sherman Oaks, California. For the record, we were sitting on the floor. (photo © Pailin Subanna and Louis Kraft 2013)

Folks, the country of California is a joke. It is also a frightening possibility for those of us who love the USA and are thankful that we live in the United States regardless of how bad and racist our land has become in just a blink of time.

A return to the Sand Creek manuscript in a totally different direction

The young Cheyenne woman (she was in her early-to-mid-teens at the time of Sand Creek) Mo-nahs-e-tah, and this is the phonetic spelling and pronunciation of her name (I say this for often her name has been written as Mo-nah-se-tah (and other variations), which is wrong). Dr. Henrietta Mann, a Southern Cheyenne, who’s entire career has been one of exceptional achievement, including being one of the founders of the Cheyenne [and] Arapaho Tribal College in Weatherford, Oklahoma, shared this with me in 2012.

Dr. Henrietta Mann speaking at the Washita Battlefield NHS symposium on 6de2008. (photo © Leroy Livesay 2008)

I met and became friends with Dr. Mann—Henri to me—at the Washita Battlefield NHS in December 2008. … In April 2012 we smiled and joked, we shared gifts, and we talked about serious subjects when I drove to Weatherford to visit her in her office at the college. She ordered lunch in and our time together continued with a mix of good and bad.

The Cheyennes are unfortunately on the bad side (if you’ve read my writing or heard my talks or seen my plays you know why). I’m not on that “bad” side; actually I’m on the opposite side. The Cheyennes in the 1850s, 1960s, and beyond, were on the good side. Although the word wouldn’t exist until the end of WWII, they faced “genocide.” Genocide! White people craved their land, and they did whatever they could to secure it (a better word is “steal” it). … And this included murder. Of course, when the Cheyennes and their allies fought back they were reported as “vicious savages who murdered and raped.”

The lady 2nd from the left is Mo-nahs-e-tah, and I am certain of this. She is holding her child who was pure Cheyenne. Prior to when this image was created she accompanied George Armstrong Custer on his mission of peace on the Staked Plains of the Texas panhandle. Her child, which was then an infant, did not accompany her. I have used a full view of this image in Custer and the Cheyenne and in Ned Wynkoop and the Lonely Road from Sand Creek. … During my visit with Henri in 2012 I asked her how she would phonetically spell and pronounce Mo-nahs-e-tah’s name. She gave me the above information.

When your total lifeway is at risk, and that includes your lives, what are you going to do?

FIGHT! Or in the case of Arapaho Left Hand, and Cheyennes Black Kettle, Lean Bear, and White Antelope they would do everything possible to keep the peace between the races with words and not weapons.

Does this make them a “savage?” Or did this make those who refused to fight for freedom without weapons traitors to their own race? The answer to both questions is: No!

LK art of Bull Bear, the great Dog Man chief, and of Black Kettle, who, in my opinion was the greatest Cheyenne chief of all time. (art © Louis Kraft 2013)

Until Sand Creek and the Tragic End of a Lifeway goes to press I will struggle to define and document the Cheyennes (and to a lesser degree) the Arapahos lifeway and history. This time in their lives, this critical time in their lives must be recorded. And it must not be forgotten. … Also it must be recorded with an unbiased opinion.

I know that Mo-nahs-e-tah was at Sand Creek on 29nov1864, and I know that she escaped, but that was it. Now, thanks to my good friend, Gary Leonard, who is very knowledgable about this lady and the Cheyennes, I now know that she did not make her run for freedom that winter day before a soldier’s ball wounded her. Do I have enough to write about this? That is a big question at the moment. Perhaps Gary and I will be able to open a conversation wherein we can share and discuss, confirm some facts, and learn more about her. I hope so; otherwise this would be a tragedy for me.

I can’t begin to tell you how difficult this is to realize. Unfortunately this problem is generally the case, and that is that the victors write the history, and the losers’ stories are forgotten or ignored or buried. This should not be; it should never be!

As previously stated … 

I have to complete Sand Creek and the Tragic End of a Lifeway and Errol & Olivia. Fear not for I will do this. Know also that I am one tough cowboy. I will outlive my ladies for I must protect them, I must keep them safe. … This means that you will endure decades more of my writing. Smile, for you have good—or bad—reading a comin’.

— Louis Kraft

The Sand Creek, Errol Flynn & Louis Kraft connection

Website & blogs © Louis Kraft 2013-2017

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


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

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

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

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

Who am I?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What the hell?

… and how do I illustrate this section?

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

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

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

HighamBookCover_ws

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Enter Chuck Rankin

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

Mr. Rankin & the OU Press staff

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

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

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

A few Ned Wynkoop reviews

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

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

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

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

Working as a biographer to create the Sand Creek manuscript

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

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

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

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

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

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

Chuck Rankin and a major announcement

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

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

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

But … BUT …

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

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

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

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

— Louis Kraft

A tease for The Discovery and a return to Sand Creek

Website & blogs © Louis Kraft 2013-2016

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

Click on an image to expand it


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

Kraft, what the hell are you talking about?

The Discovery

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

For example:

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

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

Back to The Discovery and physicians

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A return to Sand Creek

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Back to The Discovery

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

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

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

The above is the hope of every writer.

A first meeting in The Discovery

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

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

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

The woman nodded. “Yes.”

“It’s his seeing eye dog.”

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

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

“Yes. Is there a problem?”

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

“Was he in the street?”

“No.”

“Then how did you hit him?”

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

“Good driving.”

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

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

“Are you coming?”

“In a minute.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

She smiled and nodded.

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

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

“Good. Lead the way.”

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

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

“Molly, give it a break.”

“Humph,” she mumbled as she walked away.

LK_tujungaHouse_3717_29aug15_ws

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

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

“I know why. You are handsome.”

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

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

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

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

“I like this.”

“Hold on to your seat, handsome boy.

“I will. But first your name.”

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

“…and are speaking the truth this time?”


A few thoughts about The Discovery and my world

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

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

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

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

Upcoming Blogs

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

— Louis Kraft