Louis Kraft’s upcoming books: Errol Flynn & Olivia de Havilland lead the way

Website & blogs © Louis Kraft 2013-2022

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


First, an ad for Kraft’s next blog,
which, as usual, will be long and detailed
(that is not this blog, as it isn’t a book)

This is the 20-pound bronze Wrangler that LK won for Sand Creek and the Tragic End of a Lifeway in 2021. I won my first Wrangler Award in 2012. (photo © Louis Kraft 2022)

I haven’t written and posted a blog since September 2020 due to my ongoing work preparing for the first two deliveries to the new Louis Kraft Collection at the University of New Mexico’s Center for Southwest Research & Special Collections (UNM CSWR). Pailin and I made the first delivery in a large rented Dodge Minivan in June 2021. Tomas Jaehn is the director of this huge and unbelievable archive. He flew to SoCal in December 2021, and in a rented SUV picked up the second delivery. He will also pick up a third (and smaller) delivery on 25apr2022.

The year 2021 was also a great year for my last published book, Sand Creek and the Tragic End of a Lifeway (University of Oklahoma Press, 2020), as it won two best nonfiction awards:

  • Western Heritage Museum’s Wrangler Award (which is major)
  • Colorado Authors’ League Award

Sand Creek and the Tragic End of a Lifeway was life changing for me as former University of Oklahoma Press editor-in-chief Chuck Rankin said to me after it was published: “This is your masterpiece!” Regardless if it is or not, it felt good for after almost three years of us discussing how I wanted to write the manuscript he agreed. And it was a challenge to fit everything together in a linear fashion, bring the leading and supporting players to life, while completing a book wherein I delivered it with the final agreed upon word count. Not once, but twice I cut over 60,000 words from the manuscript.

I can’t tell you how many wanna-be historians stuff their error-riddled fabricated pieces of crap that they pack with fiction disguised as fact exist. One of these wanna-be she-wolfs with bottle in hand will dance in the street in delight if I die before her … I mean him … oh hell, I don’t know what this she-wolf is.

This blog will most likely go live in the fall. … Don’t worry for it won’t feature any she-wolves.

Now to this blog …

My wonderful bro Glen Williams took this great image (right) of LK in May 2012. For me it represents exiting the past and walking into the future. In my dedication for Sand Creek and the Tragic End of a Lifeway (2020) I wrote: “For Glen Williams, my brother throughout time. Our friendship began in 1990 in a software company, and he soon became my best male friend ever. Our relationship has experienced a world of change that neither he nor I ever dreamed possible, but we have survived it. He is with me in life as he will be in deathforever linked.” Glen died on August 26, 2020, and my life has been a lot lonelier ever since.

(photo © Louis Kraft & Glen Williams 2012)

Perhaps an LK explanation would be nice

With my life, and my life expectancy, my upcoming books are my writing life. This portion of my future has been a long-time coming, and the shift in direction has been in my vision for decades. This means a number of things. ..

No more articles (I’m sick of my pitches being accepted and then an editor tells me he wants Gatewood,  Geronimo, or Custer articles—that’s past tense, as I don’t write about them any longer … not quite true with Mr. Custer (see below). Most likely there will be no more talks unless I receive my former fee of $750.00 and all expenses; no more writing for the software world and they eventually paid me six figures (I’m still approached multiple times each week) as I’m no longer Scrooge McDuck (of Donald Duck and Walt Disney fame). … This said, and when I quit the entertainment world cold turkey in the mid-1980s, I made it clear that I’d never act again. Oops! “Never say never,” at least for me, for in the first decade of this century I wrote four versions of a one-man show on Ned Wynkoop that played in Kansas, California, Colorado, and Oklahoma, and then a full-length play, Cheyenne Blood, that played for five weeks in Southern California. … What’s in my future? I don’t know.

Hopefully Olivia de Havilland enjoyed—as much as possible—her 104th birthday. I have every intention of enjoying my 104th birthday.

Key questions

As the years flash by at lightning speed there are two things that I now always ask myself:

  • Will I read the book or primary source material again for pleasure?
  • Do I need the book or primary source material for research?

If the answer is not “yes” to either question, the book/publication or primary source material has to go.

The Louis Kraft book list

The first three books in this list are most likely in the correct order, but after that it will probably turn into a flip of a coin numerous times before the following story ideas are ordered correctly.

Errol & Olivia (nonfiction)
This book has been in development since the mid-1990s. In case you didn’t know it, I’m “slow Kraft.” During this time the scope of Errol & Olivia has grown. This is good, as this manuscript will now include key events in their lives during the 1940s that are important.

Bragging aside, I have more primary source information about Mr. Flynn and Ms. de Havilland than I have for any of my Indian wars race relation books. For the record I have a ton on George Armstrong Custer; Lt. Charles Gatewood/Geronimo/Apaches; Ned Wynkoop/Cheyennes; and the Sand Creek massacre including Cheyennes/Arapahos, whites who married into the tribes, their offspring, whites who craved Indian land at all costs, and the few whites who spoke out against the sexual mutilation of human beings books, … meaning I have an EF & OdeH goldmine.

LK introducing my then girlfriend Diane Moon to Olivia de Havilland at the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences (Beverly Hills, California) on 15jun2006. There’s a story here. Hell, there’s always story in LK’s life. Do I tell it here? No, for it will be in Errol & Olivia. (photo © Louis Kraft 2006)

I enjoyed a 20-year letter correspondence with Olivia, and she invited me to her Paris, France, home twice to spend time with her and to interview her, as well as inviting me to the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts & Sciences gala when they honored her life and career. A large portion of my research on her and Mr. Flynn (and I have more on EF) is now housed at the LK Collection at the University of New Mexico’s Center for Southwest Research & Special Collections (it is the largest collection of them in the USA).*

Oh yeah Kraft knows the sword. I had planned on using art of Errol Flynn here, but got tired seeing my art stolen and then see it all over the internet. No one’s going to steal this collage for they couldn’t give a bleep about Kraft handling a blade. I will deal with EF’s swordplay in the books. I know that some people aren’t interested in this. I am, so they lose. This line of thought didn’t last long, for there is art of EF directly below. (all images © Louis Kraft 1970s & 1982)

* Any archival information I have, such as from the USC Warner Bros. Archives (Los Angeles, California), Arizona Historical Society (Tucson), or Colorado Historical Society (Denver), and so on, including photocopies, PDFs, and photos, belongs to the archive that I obtained it from and it can never be in the Louis Kraft Collection at UNM CSWR or in the first Louis Kraft Collection at the Chávez History Library, Museum of New Mexico, Santa Fe (created in 2002).

I changed my mind from the above caption as I’m certain that this image will not appear in my books. Flynn and Livvie (as Errol and others called Olivia) made their last film together in 1941—They Died with Their Boots On (Warner Bros.). Flynn played Custer and Olivia played Elizabeth Bacon Custer (“Libbie”). I have much to say about this film and their lives while working on it. (art ©  Louis Kraft 2013)

As with my last four Indian wars books Errol & Olivia will be published by a university press. The reason is simple: University presses strive to eliminate errors while including notes that allow their readers to locate and view the authors’ documentation whereas popular presses reprint errors ad nauseam while also printing new errors that will also be reprinted by writers too lazy to do real research.

My Flynn/de Havilland collection is locked down until this book and Errol Flynn: The Defining Decade are published or December 31, 2031, whichever comes first.

**********

The next book is fiction, and thereafter there is more fiction in my future than nonfiction (I know, pure heresy) but I’m a writer. I have written screenplays, plays, talks, articles, and books, not to mention 20 years writing for the software world. I have always been in control of my writing life (and even when writing technical documentation). Here’s two examples:

Louis Kraft at the Western Heritage Wrangler Awards event in April 2012. This photo was taken shortly before the book signing on the afternoon of the twentieth.

In 2011 Wild West magazine sent me a proof of my article, “When Wynkoop was Sheriff.” When I saw it I called photo editor Lori Fleming, and told her to enlarge my art of Ned Wynkoop on the first page of the article as it was dinky and the story was about him. She told me that the issue had already been designed and there was no room. I told her to remove one of the two images of Rocky Mountain News editor William Byers that I had supplied, and she told me “no.” “Fine,” I said, “kill the article for you will no longer publish it.” There was a long pause. “You call Greg, and talk to him!” she screamed and hung up. Greg was/is editor of Wild West, Gregory Lalire. I didn’t call. A few days later he called me and said, “I hear you have a problem.” “No, I don’t have a problem, but Lori does.” I told Greg what I wanted, and he said, “I’ll take care of it.” He did and “When Wynkoop was Sheriff” won my first Wrangler Award.

In 1990 when I landed my first writing job in the software world at Infonet Services Corporation I quickly realized that the only thing the other technical writer did was edit engineer copy when provided. Otherwise he spent his time on the phone with his girlfriend. I couldn’t believe what I saw. On my third day on the job I walked into documentation manager Howard Burnaugh’s office and told him that I needed the software for the product I’d be writing about on my computer. “Why?” “How can I write about a product when I don’t know how to use it?” I then added that I wanted a list of all the engineers that I’d be working with—two days later Howard provided both to me.

**********

Navajo Blood (fiction)
Before saying a word about this story that has been dormant since the mid-1990s, I was in the process of preparing yet another delivery to the LK Collection in the Chávez History Library, when I uncovered a polished draft of my novel and all the accompanying documentation.

I prepped it for that delivery, but it never happened as Tomas Jaehn’s pitch to create a second LK Collection ended my deliveries to Santa Fe. … Am I a traitor/deserter to the first LK Collection? Maybe, but the newly created LK Collection at UNM CSWR is, and will forever be, the greatest honor bestowed upon this writer who learned his craft by the seat of his pants.

Marissa Kraft sitting near a ledge on the north side of the three canyons that are known as Canyon de Chelly on the Navajo Reservation on 7aug2012. In the background is Navajo Fortress Rock, which is a key set piece for Navajo Blood . This was her third, and my fourth extended trip to the Canyon de Chelly National Monument, and the only national monument not on USA land. (photo © Marissa & Louis Kraft 2012)

Changing focus, in June 2019 my daughter Marissa Kraft and  I enjoyed a work and R&R trip to Tucson, Arizona, a city that I fell in love with in the 1970s, when my first wife and I spent a lot of time with her brother and his bride while he attended the University of Arizona. I can’t begin to tell you how much time I’ve spent there, but my research for the two Gatewood/Geronimo/Apache books kept me there for many months, and it is easily over six and a half months throughout the years. …

That 2019 June in Tucson Marissa and I saw and spent time with friend/literary agent Cherry Weiner at the Western Writers of America convention. We didn’t attend the event, but instead mingled with it at the hosting hotel. The polished genre draft of Navajo Blood was 65,000 words, and since discovering it I had been thinking about increasing its size by 35,000 words to make it an historical novel. Cherry totally agreed and might be interested. … The goal here is to add more Navajo words, culture, and mysticism, as well as more dialogue, character development, and action.

Colonel Kit Carson (right) receiving his orders from Brigadier General James Carleton in 1863 to launch a war against the Navajos, an assignment he didn’t want as the Diné were his friends. This is a detail of art displayed at the Bosque Redondo Memorial Museum in southeastern New Mexico. This museum is magnificent, and puts many national historic sites in the USA to shame.

The leading players are a Diné (as the Navajos call themselves) warrior, his granddaughter, Kit Carson, and his family during the early 1860s. I’ve shared more in the past, but not here. I will easily complete and polish a 100,000-word draft while continuing primary-source research on Errol Flynn: The Defining Decade.

Navajo Blood is also locked down at the Louis Kraft Collection, UNM CSWR, until it is published or December 31, 2031, whichever comes first, per my contract.

Errol Flynn: The Defining Decade (nonfiction)

I discovered Errol Flynn while in elementary school about two years before he died on 14oct1959. He grabbed my attention then, and believe it or not he has never let go. I’m going to say a few words that are probably in total disagreement with what has circled the news media, the internet, and in way too many publications since 1980 when Charles Higham’s heinous and untrue biography, Errol Flynn: The Untold Story, was published. In the United States you can defame the dead. In Canada you cannot defame the dead, meaning that in the USA Higham got away with murdering EF’s life and legacy. Not so in Canada where Higham’s despicable book was also published. Flynn’s two daughters Deidre and Rory with his second wife Nora Eddington sued him there. To avoid going to count Higham never again traveled to Canada during in his lifetime.

I hate to say it but there are other books as despicable as Higham’s or worse.

LK’s art based upon a 2009 photo taken at her home in Paris, France, in July 2009. Believe it or not years back a person accused me of creating this false piece of art us as I didn’t know Olivia. (art © Louis Kraft 2013)

For what it is worth, Olivia shared only a few thoughts about Higham’s book on EF or his book on her and her sister film star and Oscar winner Joan Fontaine. I share her thoughts on Higham in Errol & Olivia. Beyond that, she refused to talk.

As stated above more archival research is still needed and it is ongoing as time permits. The title says it all, and, God willing, I’ll see it published. Sorry, no more information at this point in time as there are thieves out there who would love to steal my story idea and publish long before I do.

My Flynn/de Havilland collection is locked down until this book and Errol & Olivia are published or December 31, 2031, whichever comes first.

Everything that follows will be determined when it is time to choose a follow-up book to Mr. Flynn. .. At the same time I’m wondering how much I can share of upcoming fiction without giving away too much of the plots.

LK Memoir (nonfiction)
This has been an announced project a decade or more back. Will it ever be written? I don’t know but hope so. There’s been a lot of failure, a lot of tragedy, a lot of special people, a lot of idiots (including a racist pig—my view of this piece of slim isn’t printable), a lot of incidents that will make you cheer or laugh or cry or scream or cringe. Say it “ain’t” so LK! Alas, ’tis so. …

The LK Collection at UNM CSWR includes a large section called “Louis Kraft Memoir,” and it grows with each delivery. It includes everything from notes documenting an event to historical documents, such as my father’s discharge from the U.S. Marine Corps on 1aug1946 to a package of hair with one word on the outside of the 8½ x 11″ manilla envelope that proclaimed “SHAME” in large red letters that made me thrilled that I lived on the West Coast while the lady who sent me the package lived on the East Coast as the threat was real.

My beautiful wife Pailin Subanna Kraft at the end of our Thanksgiving dinner on 25nov2021. I have just completed preparing this image of her with a caption for the third delivery to the LK Collection at UNM CSWR on April 25. Oh, the second portion of the dedication in Sand Creek and the Tragic End of a Lifeway stated: “And for Pailin Subanna-Kraft, my lady, best friend, wife, and love, who has accepted my life and world without question. Without her I would have no life.” After she became a U.S. citizen in 2020 she removed the hyphen from her last name and made “Subanna” her middle name. (photo © Pailin Subanna Kraft & Louis Kraft 2021)

I was working on the third LK Collection delivery to UNM during the Oscar telecast on 27mar2022, but had a link for “Oscar Winners” on the internet so during breaks I could see what was happening. On live TV Jada Pinkett Smith was verbally insulted/attacked before a global audience. This was not an ad-lib by any stretch of the imagination. No! It was heinous in its intent and Will Smith walked onto the stage and slapped Chris Rock on the face and then returned to his seat where he later yelled: “Keep my wife’s name out of your fucking mouth!” Mr. Smith has since taken a lot heat. On April 1st he resigned from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences. while humbly apologizing for his actions.

I understand his live apology when he accepted his Oscar for best actor, again the following day, online, and his announcement on April 1st. He’s a real human being, and I have nothing but praise for him. On April 8 the Academy banned Smith from all events (not their wording) for 10 years. Will Smith had the perfect response: “I accept and respect the Academy’s decision.” … When your lady, your wife, you loved one is verbally assaulted as Jada was, or as my beautiful wife Pailin has been, it is totally unacceptable. …

Pailin didn’t learn of Will Smith defending his wife until the following morning when she saw the news on a Thai broadcast. I was working on the delivery to UNM and was at my computer when she asked me what I would do? I followed her into the kitchen, and when she turned back to me I swung at an invisible figure with an open hand. She grabbed me with joy and we shared a long hug as I would defend her in the flesh against some of the heinous insults that have been directed at her and myself, and they will be in the memoir.

In Errol Flynn’s great autobiography/memoir he attempted to tell the truth—good or bad—but it was mostly (not all; but mostly) from his memory. There are some errors (and not all were created by him; read his publisher or ghost writer). How many celebrity memoirs have you read? How many were total gloss-overs wherein the subject never cursed, never lied, never stole, never cheated, never did drugs, never was a racist? In other words they were God’s gift to humanity. The absolute perfect person. Errol got it right (however, if he had been living when it was published in late 1959 he could have been sued). If ever I write a memoir my goal will be to tell the truth.

Finally, and like Mr. Flynn, I need to be dead when this book is published as I don’t want to be confronted by a mob armed with guns, knives, bombs, and an army of lawyers.

Muse Eternal (fiction)
Archaeologist Olivia Mitchel uncovers a disturbing array of Anasazi bones at newly discovered ruins outside of Albuquerque, New Mexico. Close examination leads her to believe what she has found could be an example of ritualistic cannibalism. As this is heresy she keeps her discovery to herself.

This image was taken on 8sept1989 at Taos Pueblo, New Mexico. In this image my daughter Marissa is six and a half years old. At this point in time I may make Elsa, Olivia’s daughter, six while also considering making her 10 or 12. This decision is still floating on the wind. (photo © Marissa & Louis Kraft 1989)

Olivia, her daughter Elsa, and renown archeologist Charles Fairbanks go to Albuquerque for a weekend of R&R. Charles is Olivia’s mentor and lover. During their three days of partying Charles is invited to a banquet wherein the keynote speaker is a noted Indian wars historian. The evening of the event begins fabulously but ends on a sour note in the after hours when the writer named Jon Werner wins over Elsa while Olivia and Charles party with the elite of New Mexico. Later that night Olivia hesitantly presents her mutilated bone theory to Charles. He warns her that she is treading on dangerous ground. Many in the archeological field prefer the status quo of the Anasazi—that of the peaceful, sedentary people of legend. Olivia discounts the warning as little more than hidden jealousy.

The above is just a tad of what I already have in place with what could be a story that hopefully pops off the pages. Originally Werner was set to be a song writer/country singer but recently I changed him to a historian, as that will ease him into the plot with a personal interest in what is, or is not, happening.

This story is close to me; real close in ways I can never disclose. Because of this, Muse Eternal currently will become reality before The Land of the Heathen (at least at this moment). My view, these are two novels that I must complete and see published.

Land of the Heathen (fiction)

Land of the Heathen is based upon the Chinese presence on the Monterey peninsula and Stockton, California, in the 19th century. It deals with race relations during the 1880s, and yes it is a western. I have a lot of research already in-house, including an outline, synopsis, and character descriptions.

This photo of LK may represent the image that I use for Wade Hardin. (© Louis Kraft 1973)

Sheep herder Wade Hardin, brother Will, and his wife Emma defend their flock from white rustlers, but Will and his infant son are wounded. Hardin travels to Stockton to get a doctor and sell their sheep. To calm himself enters a saloon. Ling Cheng, a Chinese fisherman who was visiting friends, is pushed around by cattlemen. Normally, Hardin wouldn’t interfere, but still seething over the attack on his sheep he does and stands down the mob. Cheng departs, but Hardin is now seen as a Chinese lover and the town physician will not attend to his relatives and he receives no offers on the sheep.

When Hardin returns to camp, his young nephew is dead. Soon after cattle baron William (Billy) Johnson appears and offers a lowball amount of cash to buy the sheep. Although Johnson looks familiar Hardin accepts. He, Will, and Emma break camp and move south. At another Delta town, Hardin goes in alone for supplies. A celebrating Johnson is present and tells the sheep man, “I should have never paid for something I could have for free.” Hardin realizes that Johnson had raided his flock, and as he flees the cattle baron shouts out that Hardin “is in cahoots with the Chinese.”

Hardin finds Will murdered and Emma in shock. They flee toward Arizona but are tracked down. Hardin is shot, robbed, and  beaten. Just before Emma is raped she guts her attacker with a knife only to be shot to death. That night Hardin kills his guard and vanishes into the night on a stolen horse.

This image of Gong Li is from Zhou Yu’s Train (2004). Along with Olga Kurylenko, she is one of my top two actresses of all time. Mainly because both listen, react, and then speak. Way too many actors don’t do this. I’m using Li for my physical image of Tama.

Changing direction the wounded man rides toward the California Coast, eventually stumbling into a wooden shanty in Point Aloma, a Chinese enclave on the Monterey Peninsula. His arrival causes an uproar as the Chinese consider this white man a heathen, a devil, same as they do with all whites. Cheng arrives with news that the white devils hunt this heathen and that they make a gift of him.

An old man stands up for Hardin, as earlier he had seen him protect Cheng in the Stockton saloon. This brings the wrath of his Chinese brethren on him, but surprisingly Cheng agrees when white devils are seen riding toward the village.

Cheng hides Hardin in his house. But not all is good. The Chinese are wary of the devil within their midst and keep their distance. Hardin’s recovery is slow, and he has a difficult time adjusting to the cultural barriers. However, as he regains his strength, he attempts to fit in. Cheng’s children, and Tama, his sister, respond. The elders do not, and Cheng warns Hardin to keep to himself, as he is only welcome until he heals.

This is what a Chinese fishing town looked like on the Monterey coast about 10 years prior to Land of the Heathen.

When Cheng and the other men are at sea fishing whites invade Point Alones. Their assault includes rape of old and young. Hardin has recovered enough to step out from hiding and intervene, but Tama physically stops him. That night, after fishing, Cheng burns for revenge, but knows this cannot be. Then he sees the flicker of a relationship between Tama and Hardin. He takes Hardin aside and tells him that Tama is a rarity in the land of the heathen, the white man—a Chinese female who is not married and who isn’t a whore in the Devil’s world. She will marry one of her own. It’s simple: if Hardin touches her, he will die. … This is the beginning of the story.

Obviously this story is close to my life, and is a coin flip with Muse Eternal for which novel will be first. Best of all, and like Muse Eternal, I have a lot of research in house.

Reenter Howard Burnaugh,
LK’s documentation manager
at Infonet Services Corporation in El Segundo, California

I ought to say something here. In 1995 there was a major software convention in San Francisco that was free. ….  Howard had hired me as a technical writer in 1990 with zero experience (my background consisted of design and freelance writing).

I asked him if I could attend the convention, pitching that it would expand my knowledge on how to improve the look and feel of the books I currently wrote and designed. Without hesitation he said, “Yes.” … Before I left his his office he told me that he’d only pay for the airfare. The quotes I obtained were high. When Howard saw them he said, “No, instead I’ll pay your gasoline.” … That night I called great friends Tony and Cindy Graham, who lived in Santa Cruz, and asked if I could stay with them while I attended the convention. They said yes. I told them that I’d arrive on Wednesday evening and return home early Sunday morning. Tony and Cindy were oh-so key in my brother Lee’s life. Their children Sarah and Anthony were very young at this time. … On Sunday I detoured to explore Monterey, and stumbled upon a photographer’s shop that featured Chinese photos from the nineteenth century that he restored, printed, and sold. I spent three or four hours with him and bought Chinese Gold before I continued my drive south. All I could think about were the Chinese. By the time I got home I had a story idea.

On Monday I handed my gasoline bill to Howard. At that time I drove a 1982 F-150 Ford pickup (which he knew), and it didn’t get good mileage. When he looked at the cost I thought that he would faint, but then his face turned beet red. It was a struggle not to laugh. “If you had agreed to the air flight.” I said, “I would have stayed in an expensive hotel in downtown San Francisco that I couldn’t afford, but you didn’t. I stayed with friends in Santa Cruz.”

Untitled Kit Carson/Indians (nonfiction)
This untitled, and most-likely my last nonfiction book that deals with race relations and American Indians on the frontier, will focus on Kit Carson.

As the caption in the photo of this LK art of Kit Carson states, it is already in the first LK Collection at the Chávez History Library, and it is copyrighted art. … The art shows how Carson appeared in the first portion of the 1860s. This portion of Carson’s life may or may not be in my nonfiction manuscript. Research will be the determining factor.

This manuscript has been in the works for a long-long time, and is of great importance to me. And doubly so, for like my previous Indian wars books, it is a story that has never been told as I hope to tell it, and then with only a paragraph or three that shares nothing or is so fictional or biased that it should have never been printed. Shame on the publishers!

As always I have a lot of information that is already in-house, and much of it is primary research. But it is not enough. More primary source research is required, and it is mandatory to proceed with this manuscript. If I can’t discover and mine what is necessary it will be a tragedy for then my last nonfiction Indian wars book will have already been published.

For the record, if I am lucky, obtain long lost information, and draft a decent manuscript, my publisher of choice will be the University of Nebraska Press. If this happens, the reasons will be shared.

The Pirate Drake (fiction)
“The Pirate Drake” is mostly what I call Francis Drake, but I doubt if it will ever be a book title. … A lot about the pirate Drake needs to be said (but not here). This said, I should begin with director Richard Steele Reed, who was my acting manager in1976-1977. Unfortunately Richard is long gone, that is he no longer walks Mother Earth. After I had returned to Los Angeles after a summer of dinner theater in Lubbock, Texas, we contracted. It was a good working relationship, but it wouldn’t last. During this time we partnered on a novel dealing with Drake’s early piratical voyages to the New World. I wrote, and even then I had all the books published on Drake to that point in time, while Richard, who knew nothing about the pirate, edited. Alas, this story went on hiatus in 1977, which was good for me as my future life as a writer had just exploded although I wouldn’t realize this for years. This sounds like fiction—unpublished Kraft fiction—but it isn’t.

This image shows Drake’s ship entering a small harbor. His vessels were much smaller at the end of the 1560s and into the early 1570s. It was during this time he befriended the Cimarrons, mixed-blood African slaves who escaped from the Spaniards and married indigenous people who lived in Panama. The art is in the Louis Kraft Collection in Santa Fe.

This portion of Drake’s life isn’t well documented as there isn’t much documentation at this time of his life as he lived in obscurity. He sought revenge against the Spaniards who had promised that John Hawkins’ damaged fleet a safe harbor to repair vessels but then attacked and destroyed all the English ships save two: a small vessel named the Swan that Drake captained and another that Hawkins had boarded after his ship was engulfed in flames. … As soon as possible Drake made exploratory trips to the Caribbean Sea and the Spanish mainland to decide how he would begin his private war against Spain. During this time he wooed and won Mary Newman, who became his wife in 1569. The pirate Drake’s war against Spain began in 1572.

The Pirate Drake (nonfiction)
… And he has the potential of jumping to the top of this list in a heartbeat but it won’t happen. This is no joke. No joke. Francis Drake has been with me since early childhood, but for some reason has always been pushed to the back of my writing life.

The second time was when the Golden Hinde II was docked in Oxnard, California, but I only have photos of the vessel and not of me on it.

For the record, I’ve always been a pirate, and have always walked shoulder to shoulder with Francis Drake. I’ve made a point of exploring the Golden Hinde II as this was the vessel in which he circumnavigated the globe (1577-1580). Folks, this was a major accomplishment.

LK photo of the replica of the pirate Francis Drake’s Golden Hinde II in Oxnard, California (June 1988). Unlike my first and third times aboard his vessel I didn’t have it to myself, as his ship was jammed with people. (photo © Louis Kraft 1988)

Francis Drake was an exceptional human being. If you study the second half of the sixteenth century and are aware of the racial and religious hatred that were predominant, and more the brutal and at times the savage butchery of human beings at this time, you may understand my attraction to Drake the pirate.

Yes, he was a pirate, and the Spaniards considered him a pirate during his entire life even though he was knighted by Queen Elizabeth I of England after the circumnavigation. But he wasn’t the typical bloodthirsty pirate who butchered other human beings. Instead he treated them with respect (even though he hated Spain for their heinous murder of indigenous people in the New World and Protestants whenever captured). By the end of my college years Drake had hooked me, and thereafter I have purchased everything on him that I could find.

What’s this book going to be about? I’m not sure yet, but it will not deal with anything in my novel about him. For more on the pirate Drake see: https://www.louiskraftwriter.com/2017/05/20/the-pirate-francis-drake-and-louis-kraft/.

Phraya Phichai Dap Hak, the soldier with the broken sword (fiction)

I discovered Phraya Phichai on my second full day in Thailand in November 2014 after I joined Pailin in her homeland, and it was her first visit since leaving in 2004. We mostly stayed with family and friends (one cottage on my first night after Joining Pailin and one hotel on our next to last night). Pailin’s good friend Colonel Daranee Konsin (retired) opened her home to us in Lompang. Her statue was the same as I would see time and again. Next we lived with Not and Font Subanna (they are Pailin’s sister and brother-in-law). We spent nine or eleven days with them in Uttaratt and the trip to Bangkok.

Art of Font Subanna & LK at his home in Uttaradit, Thailand, on his birthday (27nov2014). I created the painting in 2016. (art © Louis Kraft & Font Subanna 2016)

Sabrina Subanna, Not and Font’s daughter, and Pailin’s niece is her only relative in the USA. Luckily Sabrina and her hubby Carlos Castillo live near us as Pailin and Sabrina are sisters. Sabrina’s sister Lek and her husband Sophon, who live walking distance from her parents, gave us a tour of their city, and as I learned it featured Phraya Phichai. This included a huge museum that housed three paintings of him and finally the Temple where there is a huge statue of him (that the small ones replicate) plus a museum that featured him.

A boy named Choi (which meant “little one”) was born in 1741. While still a boy Thai boxing grabbed hold of his life and would not let go. Without his parents knowledge he studied it. At an unknown date he met Thiang, a master trainer who saw his potential. Although unknown at the time, their connection was key to the boy’s future. When twenty years old and now known as Thong Di he was in the town of Tak during an annual festival that included boxing matches. An unknown in the boxing world, he entered the contest but refused to fight anyone but the best. Arjarn Nai Hao, the town’s master agreed to the fight anticipating an easy victory. To the crowds’ surprise, the upstart defeated the master. Phraya Tak, who hosted the boxing matches and was an officer in the Thai army, asked Thong Di to enlist. He did.

Who says they don’t raise cowgirls in Thailand? Not true and I have photos to prove it. What you see here is Pailin Subanna in the front yard of Tujunga House in 2013. My bro in Thailand Font Subanna gave me his statue of Phraya Phichai in 2016 when Pailin visited. The soldier with the broken sword has been on my desk ever since. (photo © Louis & Pailin Kraft 2022)

Years passed, and Phraya Tak became King Taksin, “the great of Thonburi.” During all this time Thong Di never lost a boxing match. This impressed King Taksin and he asked him to become his bodyguard. But King Taksin’s kingdom was only a portion of Siam, much of which was under Burmese control. Between 1766 and 1769 Kao Tsung, the emperor of China, invaded Burma four times to stop its aggression but failed.

LK took the photo of the monument to Phraya Phichai Dap Hak. Lek and Sophon spent one perfect day with Pailin and myself in 2014, and it concluded here. They purchased the postcard (left) for me. The art at right was created by a monk (I have his name and need to find it). (photo © Louis Kraft 2014)

During this time Phraya Tak/King Taksin saw an opportunity and began a revolt with 500 followers including Thong Di. at one point Taksin was forced to flee to the East Coast of Siam. It was here that due to Thong Di’s prowess in battle and leadership abilities Taskin made him commander-in-chief of the military. Total war was declared against Burma. Thong Di, who fought with two swords, at the front of his army, hadn’t broken his sword yet. When he did it would turn him into a legend.

With Pailin I am lucky to enjoy many video phone calls to family and friends in Thailand. I enjoy our talks with TookTa (Monrumpha Subanna), Pailin’s sister, who I didn’t meet when I visited their homeland. During a recent conversion with my lady and TookTa she asked about my projects. I told about “Phraya Phichai Dap Hak,” the soldier with the broken sword and of my desire to hire a Thai historian who was fluent in English to do primary source research with me when next I travel to a country that has welcomed with open arms.

LK’s office in the backyard of Not and Font Subanna’s home in Uttaradit on 26nov2014. (photo © Louis Kraft 2014)

TookTa told me that there isn’t much known about him. I replied that was what I thought. If true, and I totally strike out, it would eliminate any chance doing a nonfiction book on his life. Still hope burns eternal.

I have dueled with sabres in competition, I have learned swashbuckling/stage combat and have choreographed and fought duels on stage. When I return to Thailand I want to learn how to duel with two Thai swords.

Thai culture, language, religion, dialogue, action, character development and Phraya Phichai Dap Hak’s life will make a great novel.

LK’s future writing life has arrived.

The pirate Francis Drake and Louis Kraft

Website & blogs © Louis Kraft 2013-2020

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 1585-86 “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 this 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). Actually this list was expanded to twelve—it should have been thirteen and included Four’s a Crowd (see Louis Kraft’s top 12 Errol Flynn films … a personal view).

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 Rey de España (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 John 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 (Diane Moon) 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 to 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). Diane 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 historian Eric Niderost (who is also a professor in Northern California) shared this information with me, and I am forever grateful. … Diane 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 1581 Drake portrait is in the personal LK collection, as is the magnificent 1591 jewell portrait.

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 (Columbia’s northern coast of the Caribbean Sea, 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 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’s rendition is rough—at best (actually, it isn’t very good).

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.

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

Website & blogs © Louis Kraft 2013-2020
Contact Kraft at writerkraft@gmail.com or comment at the end of the blog


Ladies and gents this blog has been a long time coming. My apologies. As often, I am going to focus on subjects that are important to me. Hopefully the text moves forward at a good clip. And as always, I’ve arranged this blog to my liking; meaning that I’ve saved the most important—and all the sections are important to me—for last.

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

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El Draque times 2. (Louis Kraft personal collection)

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

Drake’s derring-do in his private war against the Spanish empire terrorized not only coastal Spain but all of King Philip II’s cities in the New World. But, unlike pirates before and after him, he wasn’t a blood-thirsty murderer. Instead of butchering captives during a time of extreme religious prejudice he never harbored a bloodlust and acted with compassion. At times he even wined and dined prisoners on plates of crystal while musicians performed. Drake’s genius was twofold: He boldly plotted strikes against Spain’s empire that were implausible. and he could improvise as needed.

While still in elementary school I saw Errol Flynn’s The Sea Hawk (1940) for the first time, and even though a youngster I realized that Flynn played a fictitious Drake (BTW the term “privateer” wouldn’t come into existence until a century after Drake’s initial voyages to the Caribbean). Soon after seeing Flynn’s Captain Geoffrey Thorpe in The Sea Hawk I saw him play George Armstrong Custer in They Died With Their Boots On (1941), which introduced me to the Civil War hero who would eventually become the superstar of the Indian wars on the American Plains.

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The quintessential Custer times 2 (Louis Kraft personal collection)

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

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

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Catching up with Errol Flynn & Olivia de Havilland

You are looking at the magazine cover for American Classic Screen (January-February 1979),  a now long dead publication. Pretty cool artwork of Mr. Flynn & Ms. de Havilland from their classic film Captain Blood (1935).

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

Errol Flynn biographer Thomas McNulty at home. (photo © Thomas McNulty)

I never desert my major writing projects. EF & OdeH are a major portion of my past, present, and future writing life. They’ll be front and center until I die. All I can say about my writing projects is “patience.” I have enough information to get my book on EF and OdeH published but this isn’t good enough. My book on Errol & Olivia is going to be different. For this to happen has and will continue to take time.

My good friend Tom McNulty, author of the best Flynn bio, Errol Flynn: The Life and Career (2004), is sharing some of his magazine research that I’ve not seen. Hopefully he will eventually be one of my key reviewers of the manuscript. With luck Tom and his beautiful wife Jan will someday be Pailin’s and my guests.

David DeWitt at Tujunga House on 13jan2013. Before David made South Carolina his home he visited SoCal to check it out. Good times for both of us for we had the time to hang out together get to know each other. More, his timing couldn’t have been better for LK, whose first website went belly up when the administrator went AWOL, for David got me going with this website/blog and gave me lessons on to create it. Thanks David, from the bottom of my heart. (photo © David DeWitt & Louis Kraft 2013)

There is a second person who is also a wonderland of knowledge and great understanding of Mr. Flynn, my bro David DeWitt. Unfortunately David lives next to the other ocean that touches the U.S. in South Carolina. Nevertheless our relationship continues to grow and like Glen Williams, he is definitely one of my go-to people. I’ve already hinted to him that when the time arrives I want him to review drafts of Errol & Olivia.

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

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

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

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

* Some people are big on lists. I’m not one of them, although I recently agreed to create two lists for the August 2014 issue of Wild West magazine. This said I do have a list of my top 10 Flynn films in my head. But the 9th and 10th slots on this list are sometimes replaced. Uncertain Glory is always on my list. While talking about lists, perhaps I’ll create a list of my top 50 or 60 films of all time (“of all time” is a terrible choice of words for my view of films can change with multiple viewings). That said, it is something that I might attempt in the future (Mr. Flynn’s films won’t be on this list).

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

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

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

And Sand Creek also creeps forward …

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

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

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

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

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I created this dark image from a photo I took in 1999 to represent the Sand Creek village (this photo wasn’t taken at Sand Creek, so what you see here is fiction as related to 1864). That said, the attack on the Cheyenne-Arapaho villages at Sand Creek is a dark time in history, a time that should never be forgotten. I’ve used this image in other social media and Eric Niderost (a freelance magazine writer who isn’t big on proofing the spelling in his emails or drafts) objected. Much to do about nothing. This art will never see print in one of my books or magazine articles. That said, at times, I must keep dark images in my head as I move forward. For only then can I (hopefully) create text that is light and moves forward. What good is a book, or any writing, if it puts people to sleep? The goal is to grab people’s interest, their soul, their guts, and keep them reading. (photo & art © Louis Kraft 1999 & 2013)

Regardless of the progress on Sand Creek, the research is ongoing, and my mind constantly swirls as I try to figure out how to mix and match people (major, minor, and bit players) as they enter the story, advance the story, and drift off to perhaps return or not). The key is the flow. It has to be smooth and yet natural, and it cannot bounce all over the place in time. I’m a firm believer that action is character. We are what we do and not what we say (although our words are important if we do what we say). Anyone can tell a good tale, but if he or she doesn’t live his/her tale it isn’t anything but fantasy, fiction, or lies. When a person says one thing but does the opposite, it is the doing that is his or her history. Just read all the slop that is stuffed down our throats on a daily basis. Publicity, regardless if a press agent leaks it or a columnist shoves it down your throat, is still publicity—meaning it is what it is. And that is nothing unless the publicist’s client did what was released or the columnist’s subject did what he claimed happened. If not, and it is accepted by us as true and not challenged, in the future this untruth or lie will find its way back into print—and this error will again see life. Worse, lazy historians who don’t do their research but instead create (or repeat history that never happened) as they pull from a handful of secondary sources while blindly printing what they have read without knowing it was indeed based upon fact.

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This image of Ned Wynkoop has been published four times, the last being in summer 2013. I’m not a great artist. If you talk with real artists, they’ll tell you my attempts suck. Still I continue. Why? Sometimes I get lucky and I earn a few bucks that in turn puts food on the table. I need say no more. Actually I do, for some people don’t like how I write.. Why? ‘Tis simple. I do what I want, learn as I go, and I have no fear of breaking the rules. (art © Louis Kraft 2007)

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

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

Dust jacket for the Wynkoop book.

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

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

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

An LK attempt to improve research

The last blog dealt with Charley Bent and my quest to learn more about him for Sand Creek and the Tragic End of a Lifeway. The attempt to gain unknown information has been less than successful.* That said, I did learn key information about Charley that I didn’t know. I do intend to again attempt presenting another person in a future LK blog or on the OIW FB page in the hope that it will generate a response. Hopefully this will happen in the not-too-distant future.

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

Who I am

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

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LK as Ned Wynkoop in 2012, when I represented him when he was inducted into the Santa Fe Trail Hall of Fame. In this image I’m leaning against the recently reconstructed building that Wynkoop rented while U.S. Indian agent at Fort Larned, Ks. (photo by friend George Elmore; image © Louis Kraft 2012)

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

After the last relationship had ended in 2011, I decided that nothing and no one would again interfere. This is my fucking life and no one else’s. That year had two endings to one relationship. Looking back both are hysterical. And I’m dying to share the stories. If I do the words are going to jump off the page (and I do have good notes). But alas, you’ll have to wait for the Memoir, and then only if I have the guts to show in words what happened. Yeah, LK wants to keep on walking this earth in one piece.

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

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The good die young

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

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

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

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

Later yet, while working for my father’s construction company I kicked down the framework for a swimming pool that I had just set when he was digging the hole too quickly with an International Harvester TD6 tractor and making it difficult to drive in the stakes accurately. But the next day it was as if it never happened. That was our life. I couldn’t be what he wanted and had every intention of doing what I damned well pleased. We didn’t connect until his wife/my mother went into the hospital for the last time on December 26, 1979. She died 10 days later. During those 10 days we spent every waking minute together and those 10 days gave us a relationship that would last for the last 19 years of his life. Oh, we still fought, but the next day it was again as if nothing had happened. This man gave me my life, for he instilled in me the courage to do as my life called and to hell with everything else. This has been with me while he lived, it was certainly present when he died, and it is with me ’til this day.

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A day I’ll never forget

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

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

I had been taking care of my father for years, and during this time I had seen our relationship blossom. Oh we continued to argue and fight, but we had become close-knit buddies. I spent between three, four, and sometimes five days and/or evenings (on weekends or after writing for Infonet Computer Services and then Storm Control Systems in El Segundo, California, beginning at 6:00 AM) with him every week. We ate together (either before or after I did whatever tasks he needed completed; grocery shopping always on Wednesday was usually three to five stores with a wad of coupons with all the items he wanted on the ads marked—easily two–three + hours).

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

We sat in the room and waited for updates. About an hour passed. A doctor appeared and informed us that he was still alive. “Please keep him alive,” I said. More time passed. The doctor returned and told us that my father/Marissa’s grandfather had died. After Marissa and I spent time with him for the last time, Cindy and I returned to Tujunga House. Sometime after the midnight hour, and after over 30 phone calls and messages, my sister called (as it turned out, she had taken the trust without telling me). I had told her two days before, on Friday, that our father probably wouldn’t live through the weekend. She said: “I didn’t believe you.”

As I said above, actions trump words every time when it comes to who we are. Hell, it was Valentine’s Day weekend! What should I have expected from her?

A June 2013 day

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Pailin Subanna (right) with her coworker at Tujunga House on June 15, 2013. Pailin was looking at me when I took this photo and her eyes captured my soul. (photo © Louis Kraft 2013).

I’m not going to say much about a June 15, 2013, dinner party that I was hosting for five, other than one of the guests had talked me and a lady she knew into agreeing that she should make it a party of six that day and evening at Tujunga House.

I haven’t just written about culture and race, I have lived it. I love people the world over—past and present. This has been the theme in my writing, over and over again, along with that key word, “peace.” And I have walked the life I talk, and that is simply people are people. Because of this I have been accused of being prejudiced against being intimate with white women. This accusation is laughable. A pretty woman is a pretty woman and I don’t give a bleep what her race is.

When Pailin Subanna appeared at my door on that June 15 day holding orchards I sucked in air and damned myself for not having a camera in my hand. On that day she walked into my world and touched me as no other person has ever done before.

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

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

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

As the year moved toward conclusion Pailin and I decided that we wanted to marry. I thought it would be in May 2014, but Pailin wanted February 14. I told her about my father’s death on that day in 1999 while adding that I was good with Valentine’s Day, as it could be a special day in my father’s life and in ours. We looked into February 14, and lo and behold if we moved quickly we could make this day happen, make this day become a second important day in my life.

THE Day 2014

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

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

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

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

We finally arrived at the Albertson Chapel 20 minutes late. Almost everyone was there and were wondering if we had called the wedding off.

No way! That said, I was having trouble walking. Surrounded by people and knowing that my future was less than an hour away, I relaxed and began to enjoy this precious time. We were allowed 20 guests. Most were Pailin’s, and most I knew and liked … Sabrina, Montanee, and Kobie are three ladies I’ve enjoyed knowing since meeting them. I invited a few people, but not my great friends Tom and Judy Eubanks as they had a long drive and were working on this day (I will forever regret this decision).

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This image is based upon a photo taken with Pete Senoff’s camera at Lum Ka Naad in Northridge, California, on 25jul13. From left: LK, Pailin, Nina & Pete Senoff. On this day, Pailin and Nina met for the first time and became instant friends (Pete & I were amazed at how well they hit it off).

LK with Marjorie Chan, a marvelous person that luckily became my friend. I have enjoyed every time we’ve seen a film, a play, ate together, or simply hung out together. (photo © Marjorie Chan & Louis Kraft 2014)

Pete Senoff, who as editor of the Grover Cleveland High School newspaper, made my final year there a pure joy by keeping my image and words in print, which in turn helped me get elected Boys’ League President. Pete and I had reconnected a couple of years back, just prior to his marriage to Nina, and, along with Pailin, has made us a close foursome.

I had the pleasure to work with film and TV costumer Marjorie Chan in the early 1980s (TV show Tucker’s Witch and TV movie Johnny Belinda with Richard Thomas). Thirty+ years, many caring talks and time together, and we’re still good friends (no matter how long the gaps between us seeing each other).

I think that everyone mingled and got along, but I don’t know …

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This is my favorite image from Pailin & LK’s wedding. (photo © Pailin Subanna-Kraft & Louis Kraft 2014)

… for I was too excited and focused on the fragile woman that had entered and changed my life.

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

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

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

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

Another ad-lib
… another laugh

When we reached the point where Fernando asked if I took Pailin to be my wife … “I said, “Kub-pom.” This garnered me a nice laugh from the Thai people present; I suppose as they were surprised that I used their word for “yes, sir.” I hadn’t expected their reaction and waited until the laughter ended before saying, “Yes, I do.” In stark contrast to my tightness at our late arrival at the chapel I was totally loose and enjoying every minute of the ceremony. Pailin was a little more serious than I. Where I allowed my emotions drive how I said words, she was quieter.

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This is not a full group shot (don’t think any were taken). From left: Annette, Robert, Nina, Pete, Kobie, Nam, LK, Greg, Pailin, Marjorie, & Mam. (photo © Pailin & Louis Kraft 2014)

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

Friends shot pictures for us, and along with those taken by the chapel, I have a good selection to pull from (and believe me, their images although shot with inexpensive cameras, often are much better than the official images … many of which are useless).

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A done deal, and 1000 times more important than signing a book contract. LK is one lucky pirate/frontiersman. (photo © Pailin Subanna-Kraft & Louis Kraft 2014)

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

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

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

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On February 20 Pailin and LK met with a lawyer to discuss our future. Afterwards we shopped in Thai Town, and then returned to the Albertson Chapel in Los Angeles to see Rev. Fernando Howard. I hadn’t mentioned it, but he is an Apache. His marrying us was alive and had grabbed both of us (I had to struggle to prevent tears from flowing). Fernando is friendly, bright, and a good person. I like him. During all of our meetings (and including February 20th there have been four) the talk has also included the Apache Indians and especially Geronimo. For those of you who don’t of him, he was a Chiricahua Apache mystic and war leader. I wanted to give Fernando a copy of Gatewood & Geronimo that both Pailin and I had signed. He was thrilled. I’m certain that Pailin and I will see him in the future. (photo © Pailin Subanna-Kraft & Louis Kraft 2014)

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

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

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