Louis Kraft talks about his background and what drives his writing

Louis Kraft talks about his background
and what drives his writing
Posted September XX, 2020

Website & blogs © Louis Kraft 2013-2020

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


Another heart surgery

What follows could be a book, and I have been struggling to cut it to pieces. I think it is best to lead with a sentence or two, maybe a short paragraph of 2016-2017, and then focus on the most recent.

As soon as my family member Carlos Castillos got me home from Providence Saint Joseph Medical Center in Burbank, Ca., Pailin helped me get me get my clothes off so that she could take this image (photo © Pailin Kraft & Louis Kraft 2020)

I have had some health problems (an understatement), but I’m alive. I should have died in 2003, 2006, 2017, and this year. … I really don’t want to talk about the past now, but I also don’t want to leave you hanging. Long story very short. I’ve had two procedures and two operations this year. When I awoke from the first operation in March, my heart surgeon and a technician from Boston Scientific, the company that manufactured the pacemaker that saved my life in 2017, were monitoring my heart and pacemaker. My surgeon confirmed information that I already knew, mainly that a lead had separated from the lower right ventricle of my heart. Originally the pacemaker was supposed to last 13½ years. By fall of 2019 the pacemaker was down to 4½ years of life. My heart surgeon told me that this was no longer so, for the pacemaker now moved toward the end of life. There was a good chance that it wouldn’t make it until the end of year. He also told me that the loose lead had punctured my heart, and that the pacemaker no longer functioned properly. He told me that I needed to replace the pacemaker when I had healed from the the March surgery (that is, in mid-June). One problem, the coronavirus made elective surgeries no longer possible in Los Angeles. All my heart appointments in March, April, May, and June. This changed in mid-June. My pacemaker is monitored whenever I’m home 24/7 by a Boston Scientific Latitude device that sits next to my computer. What was happening during the March surgery was now constant and my heart rate was rarely above 40. When I met my heart surgeon on June 17 he told me I needed the surgery ASAP, but that he couldn’t perform this operation. He recommended the best surgeon for the task in LA. I met with him a little over a week later, and we discussed my X-rays on two computers he informed me of all that could happen (negative and positive), and that he wouldn’t know how to proceed until he cut me open on the day of the surgery. He then asked if I wanted to proceed. “Yes, I want your next available time.” The surgery was on July 10, and there were problems* but I didn’t learn about them until August 4 when we met for a post-OP examination and he gave me the official report. This said, the surgery was successful. I again have a new life.

* Wild cats, opossums, large rats take one look at me at night and they run like hell as if the Devil staring at them. We have mountain lions (my favorite animal) and coyotes pass by at times. If I show
my face I hope that they don’t run but allow me to talk to them, perhaps even touch them.

Terrible times beyond belief

First and foremost I need to say a few things that have impacted, and are impacting, my life (and one of them is impacting all of us the world over).

  • The COVID-19 pandemic (by now way too many of us know someone who has fallen prey to the virus).
  • A great friend and one of the most talented people I’ve ever known has suffered a terrible tragedy in his family (it is not for me to share).
  • Olivia de Havilland died (I had thought that she would outlive me; certainly that was my hope but it was not to be).
  • My great bro throughout time, Glen Williams, has died.
  • Not to brag, but this has been a dreadful year for me. Although it has nothing to do with the COVID-19 pandemic, it has cost me 24 months of no exercise, no lifting, no yardwork, no walking, … no—you name it.
  • My brain functions at all times, and believe it or not, at this sad time of woe that all of us will remember for the rest of our lives, … I have more freelance writing, related work, and deadlines than ever before (to the point that I’ve had to turn away work).

I’m the luckiest guy you know.

A request to review a Ned Wynkoop document by the National Park Service

LK playing Ned Wynkoop in a five-week run of Cheyenne Blood in SoCal in 2009. Folks, this was a highlight in my life. Yep, LK knows a hell of a lot about this extraordinary human being. (photo © Louis Kraft 2009)

Whoa cowboy!!!!! Yeah, the NPS was doing a flyer on ol’ Ned for a few of their National Historic Sites (NHS), such as Fort Larned NHS, Sand Creek Massacre NHS, and the Washita Battlefield NHS. To say that I was honored is an understatement of major proportions.

I treated this as a major project, and it took weeks to complete. The response from the NPS? Zero!!! Not a peep. Ha-ha, you know exactly where my view of the National Park Service went. Yep, right into the trashcan. I need to say, that regardless of what I wrote—and it had to have been hard for NPS management to swallow a review that was less than a thrilling kiss-ass of love for every piece of bullshit that they came up with—but what pissed me off was that the NPS never replied, never said we disagree with everything you wrote. Hell, that would have been acceptable.

Nada! Not anything from the National Park Service. Of course, your pal Kraft couldn’t keep his mouth shut. See my review of the travesty of BS that the NPS would eventually print: National Park Service, Ned Wynkoop, & a bad taste.

LK with Shawn Gillette at the Sand Creek Massacre NHS headquarters in Eads, Co., on 3oct2014. I think that Shawn is an upstanding person, and I’m lucky to know him. Our relationship has nothing to do with the National Park Service and I hope that this remains true as our lives move forward. (photo © Shawn Gillette, Louis Kraft, & Pailin Subanna-Kraft 2014)

In 2014 great Cheyenne wars historian John Monnett and his wonderful wife Linda invited us to visit them in Lafayette, Colorado, and this included them taking Pailin and myself to the Sand Creek Massacre NHS. After walking the grounds (as much as we could, but this wasn’t much), we went to Eads, where the headquarters for the Sand Creek Massacre NHS was located. Here I met Shawn Gillette, chief of interpretation, in person for the first time. He told me that the chiefs of interpretation agreed with my review but upper management ruled the day.

I could agree with this. … But my bad taste for the USA government grows by the day (I need to say that the National Park Service is at the top of my list—the Federal government is, and from all indications this isn’t going to change for the rest of my life).

An LK interview that was to accompany a review of Sand Creek and the Tragic End of a Lifeway

This was a book that I didn’t want to write, but my good friend and former editor-in-chief at the University of Oklahoma Press refused to accept my “No, I don’t write books about war” refusal. To this date in time—egotism aside—this is not only the best,  but also the most important book that I’ve ever written.

The interview was to accompany a review of Sand Creek and the Tragic End of a LIfeway. I’m wordy, so it appeared in two editions of the paper (August and September 2020), but everything personal, everything that led up to why I write about the American Indian wars, everything that directs what I write and why, along with my next major writing project (which was a major question) was totally cut from the two issues of the newspaper.

Oh, the review of the Sand Creek book was five sentences. Five sentences! It was okay, but my review of the newspaper isn’t printable. A silent parting of ways. Been here before.—

I spent a fair amount of time writing what followsThe paper wasn’t interested in the Sand Creek book; it wanted more information on Lt. Charles Gatewood and Geronimo, while totally uninterested in why I spent 10 years to write two books about Gatewood, Geronimo, and the Apaches. Additional questions wanted to know what drove me to write about the Indian wars and racism, as we as what is my next book. As I stated in the “Intro Graf” I retained the copyright to my words and that I intended to use them in a memoir and in my blogs. As two procedures and two operations have knocked my health for a loop this year, not to mention the coronavirus pandemic, a major delivery to the Louis Kraft Collection, an upcoming talk on the Sand Creek Massacre, among other deadlines—and I haven’t even mentioned Errol & Olivia—I flat–out don’t have time to write and design a blog at this time.

What follows are words that will give you an inside peek at who I am and what drives me.

**********

In late spring 2020
I received two requests to do an interview

I stupidly agreed to the requests. The first one is still floating on the wind somewhere on the lone prairie. The other purged every word that I shared that was personal and gave their readers an understanding of who I am and why I write what I write.

Was this wasted time lost by me when I’m in a zone wherein I have no free time?
Yes! and No!

My brother Lee Kraft in fall 1988. I can’t begin to tell you how close we were (weather at war or as buddies). We partied together, we worked together, we played ball together. Like our father, who was always there for both of us, he was for me and me for him. His premature death in March 1990 is still the most devastating day in my life. (photo Louis Kraft 1988)

This paragraph initially shared my views on the above—and certainly of the second interview. Unfortunately it got a little too personal, a little too gunslinger-like with LK walking the Southwest looking to put yet another notch on his Colt.

This paragraph initially shared my views on the above—and certainly of the second interview. Unfortunately it got a little too personal, a little too gunslinger-like with LK walking the Southwest looking to put yet another notch on his Colt.

Hell, I’m a Kraft, and like my brother Lee, we were spittin’ images of our father—that is we always walked our own trail, come hell or high water. … Always.

ALWAYS.

I deleted what was to be the following text. Too bad, for it was lively and zinged off the page. …

Maybe I should return to some of my favorite Arizona and New Mexico haunts and strut about and play-act doing what I don’t dare saying in print. Oh yeah, Kraft can still do this.

At my age, macho is good, for it means that I’m still breathing.

My bro Glen Williams would love the above—hopefully he sees it in heaven.

The Tombstone Epitaph
Interview, Louis Kraft
June 2020

Interview © Louis Kraft 2020. This said The Tombstone Epitaph has full right to publish
all or part of this interview in print and online. Also know that I intend to use portions of the following interview in a memoir and in my blogs and I retain the right to do so.

I signed no contract for my FREE interview,
and the words are mine. I am reprinting them in full here.

TE: Talk about your new book Sand Creek and the Tragic End of a Lifeway. What inspired you to tackle the history of the Sand Creek Massacre?

LK: This answer can be short and sweet. I met Chuck Rankin, former editor-in-chief of the University of Oklahoma Press (OU Press) at the beginning of this century. No Chuck, no Sand Creek book. Next question. …

Just joking but not about Chuck. More’s a comin’.

At that time when we met I was in the process of trying to work out a contract with the University of New Mexico Press for my second book dealing with Lieutenant Charles Gatewood; actually piecing together his incomplete and failed attempt to write a memoir about his experiences with the Apache Indians in the 1880s. I had a terrific contract for the first Gatewood book but this contract was peanuts in comparison. I countered, but the publisher refused, I said goodbye and never looked back. In retrospect this was a very good day for LK. Chuck was interested, but the two OU Press peer reviews were negative and he sent me a short letter saying that Oklahoma would pass. I took what I agreed with from the reviews, incorporated it into my manuscript, and sent a proposal to the University of Nebraska Press. They quickly requested the manuscript, liked it (as did their peer reviewers), and added an advance to my first Gatewood contract.

During this time Chuck and I continued to discuss a book about Ned Wynkoop, a soldier turned U.S. Indian agent due to events that surrounded the Sand Creek Massacre in Colorado Territory in 1864 (he wasn’t present at the massacre). He had migrated to what would become Colorado Territory in 1858 at the beginning of the gold rush, and as many who migrated westward harbored the typical racial hatred of American Indians. Although he didn’t realize it at that time, he was different than most of his comrades. … By fall 1864 he was a major in the First Colorado Volunteer Cavalry and commanded Fort Lyon (southeast Colorado Territory). That spring events led to the Cheyenne war of 1864, and the hatred and violence escalated as the summer moved toward fall. He had already stated that he intended to kill every Indian he came across, but to date (and this included a command he led against the Utes in 1863, and during which he never saw the enemy) he had not fired his revolver at a Cheyenne or Arapaho Indian. That September 3, he received two letters (to the commanding officer of Fort Lyon and the Cheyenne-Arapaho Indian agent) dictated by Cheyenne Chief Black Kettle that stated that there was a large village (about 2,000 people) of mostly Cheyennes and Arapahos on a tributary of the Smoky Hill River in Kansas. Black Kettle and other chiefs wanted to discuss ending the war while juggling a carrot that they had white prisoners that they would give up if he met with them. His officers viewed it as a suicide mission, but Wynkoop refused to listen to them. A village that large couldn’t remain in one location for any length of time due to their huge horse and mule herds as well as supplying fresh meat, fruit, and vegetables that grew in the area. To send a courier to headquarters in Kansas would take at least a week (most likely longer) and the same amount of time for a return answer. Wynkoop couldn’t wait, and without orders set out for the village with 127 men. … Much would happen, including facing a large warrior battle line; speaking with angry chiefs; eventually talking seven chiefs into traveling to Denver to meet with John Evans; the territorial governor; and receiving four children. During the council, which took place south of the city at Camp Weld, Evans made it clear that the war would continue. However, when Colonel John Chivington, who commanded the District of Colorado, verbally passed the Indians to Wynkoop to oversee them at Fort Lyon, the major, Indian chiefs, and Rocky Mountain News editor and publisher William Byers thought a tentative peace had been reached until the military command in Kansas decided what action it would take.

By early November Wynkoop was removed from command at Fort Lyon, and replaced by Major Scott Anthony. Before setting out for Kansas, where he anticipated being cashiered out of the military, Wynkoop was present when Anthony told Black Kettle and Arapaho Chief Left Hand, among others to move to Sand Creek, about forty miles northeast of the fort. Anthony also told them that he would inform them of the military’s decision in regards to the war ending or not.

During Wynkoop’s brief time with the Cheyennes and Arapahos he had realized that they were human beings. When he learned that Chivington and Colorado Volunteers attacked the Sand Creek village and brutally butchered men, women, and children who thought that they had been removed from the war, he was outraged. He considered the massacre heinous, and it changed his life forever. By 1866 he was well on his way to becoming an U.S. Indian agent for the Cheyennes and Arapahos, … and perhaps the most hated white man in Colorado Territory.

I had discovered Wynkoop when looking for an Indian agent on the take for a novel I intended to write; that is defrauding the U.S. government and the Indians he represented to become rich. I never wrote the story, but by 1987 my first article on him had been published (this was my first Indian wars article). Two years later I delivered my first talk on him. By the mid-1990s I was moving forward with a planned biography on him.

Chuck Rankin was definitely interested in my Wynkoop manuscript. There was one problem. Chuck didn’t want was a duel biography like Gatewood & Geronimo; in other words, no Wynkoop & Black Kettle. Actually this was not a problem, for I never considered a joint biography—this book would focus on Wynkoop.

Over the coming years we often talked about how to handle the massacre in the book. As Ned Wynkoop and the Lonely Road from Sand Creek went into production (OU Press published it in 2011), Chuck returned to that tragic November when men, women, and children were murdered and savagely hacked to pieces. This led to us discussing me writing a book about the massacre. At first my reply was “no” for the simple reason that I consider myself a biographer as opposed to a historian (even though history has a large presence in all my nonfiction and fiction). At that time I still wrote for software companies—meaning that travel and research were never a concern—and we talked in person, on the phone, and with email. We both listened and between us we discussed a book that would be acceptable to both of us. The massacre was a key piece in the proposal, and we both agreed that I would deal with it similar to how I did in the Wynkoop book. But people, their words, and actions would drive the story to conclusion. I wanted to write the book through the eyes of the Southern Cheyennes and Arapahos, whites who married into the tribes, their offspring, whites who coveted Indian land to the east of the Rocky Mountains, and whites who dared to speak out against the Sand Creek Massacre. Once we were in agreement on how I would approach the storyline everything else fell into place. …

That is until I began to write the book. It didn’t take long for me to realize that I needed more research, a lot more research. As always, I allowed my research to drive the flow of the manuscript, and the more I learned and understood, the deeper I had to dig. There were surprises—big surprises. People that I thought would have leading parts became supporting players and people I thought would have smaller roles became the focus. Two huge examples here are Arapaho Chief Little Raven (who I really didn’t know that much about) became the Indian lead, along with Black Kettle, whom I always knew would have a large role. But digging into Black Kettle also presented a lot of information about him that I never knew existed.

For me it is the process of research, writing, more research, more writing, rewriting, research, writing, editing, and more research, until the manuscript begins to take shape. Then comes the hard part, and that is trying to make all the facts, events, and people flow together in hopefully a readable manner. It doesn’t stop there, for I play a large role in the production process.

For the record if I ever become homeless and can have only one of my books, it would be Sand Creek and the Tragic End of a Lifeway. Yeah, and this was a book that I initially didn’t want to write.

TE: What challenges did you face while researching American Indian history?

LK: This is a wide open question, but my answer is simple: how to locate information that gives life to (in my case) the Cheyennes, Arapahos, Apaches, and, if I live long enough, the Navajos’ side of their history and culture. A good portion of the life and times of these people has been told by the white man, and much of it has been biased, but not all of it. Often raiding warrior numbers have been inflated, as has been white casualties. And this goes the other way also, and the Sand Creek Massacre is a good example of this. I’m going to stick with my current book for this question.

Colonel John Chivington wrote two official reports of his November 29, 1864, attack on the Cheyenne village circles and the Arapaho village, which may have had two camp circles on Sand Creek in southeastern Colorado Territory. On the day of the massacre Chivington reported that he killed between 500 and 600 Indians, including Black Kettle. Sand Creek Massacre NHS ranger, and the most knowledgeable person on what happened on those two days, Jeff Campbell’s calculations places the death count at 230 with 75 percent of the dead being non-combatants. This means that approximately 67 of the dead were chiefs and warriors. By the way, Black Kettle wasn’t even wounded.

Not all the soldiers present took part in the carnage, and some refused to fire their weapons. Two of them were Wynkoop’s subordinates, Captain Silas Soule and Lieutenant Joseph Cramer. Both dared to speak out against the massacre during the investigations, and Soule was later murdered on the streets of Denver. Wynkoop, who was exonerated in late December 1864 might have shared the same fate, but was again in command of Fort Lyon. Even so he was called “Black Kettle’s puppet.”

Honestly, the hardest part was trying to remain in the point-of-view (POV, a film term) of the person I was currently writing about. We already know all the negative prose directed at Black Kettle regardless of his efforts to maintain peace. There were many leading and supporting players in the Sand Creek story, including Black Kettle, Cheyenne chief and Keeper of the Sacred Arrows Stone Forehead; Dog Men (“Dog Soldiers” is a white-man term) Tall Bull and Bull Bear; Arapaho chiefs Little Raven, Left Hand, Neva; trader William Bent, and his mixed-blood Cheyenne sons George Bent, Charley Bent; mixed-blood Cheyennes Edmund Guerrier and Jack Smith, and his father, trader John S. Smith; and Byers, Evans, Chivington, Soule, and Wynkoop to name a few. The goal has always been to present them with their words, their actions, and views of them by their contemporaries.

Regardless of my views—and those of you who read my writing know what they are for I mostly focus on people who try to end war or keep the peace. These are people who reach across racial boundaries to do this. Some of them understand this and become friends, while others do what they think is right regardless of their racial feelings. Bottom line: these are the people I write about. That said, I view the Los Angeles mass murderer Charles Manson as a heinous villain; ditto Adolph Hitler. … None of the people that I write about in the Indian wars do I consider a heinous villain. I believe that what they did when they did it they thought that they were doing what was right. If I do my job correctly, you will be able to make your own decision about them. That is my goal.

TE: What is the legacy of the Sand Creek Massacre today?

LK: To begin with there is still a large divide between white-Indian relations. And certainly a lot of what I’ve watched move forward with racial equality since the 1960s, although slow I thought that it was steady. Over the last three and a half years we have a national government that fosters racial hatred, and it’s almost as if the last 60 years of progress never happened.

A truthful reporting of what happened on that bloody ground on November 29 and 30, 1864, is shocking. It affects my psyche and brings tears to my eyes every time I think about the details. Most of us are lucky to have loved ones, children, parents, friends. The words that describe what happened on that bloody ground are horrifying. Do you get the gist of what I’m talking about?

I have a talk coming up with the University of New Mexico on the afternoon of October 21 titled “An attempt to kill every Cheyenne man, woman, and child: The Sand Creek Massacre, Colorado (November 29, 1864).” I thought that the novel coronavirus had killed this talk, but luckily Tomas Jaehn (Director, Special Collections/CSWR University of New Mexico Libraries) who hosts monthly talks at UNM saved the day when he decided to have them continue live via Zoom. I don’t want to share much about the talk other than to say that I intend to focus on the scramble from within the various Cheyenne village circles as people attempt to survive sexual butchery. A number of Cheyenne mixed-bloods were in the village. Over the years many of them have gotten a bad rap, as traitors to the white race, and worse, little more than renegades and pure evil. All I’ll say here is that they saw what happened. Some of them grew up walking between the two races and indeed attended school in Missouri. This dark time would remain with them for the remainder of their lives. To this point in time, they had moved back and forth between the races. Not any longer (although Edmund Guerrier did well working with the white man, and he was present) for young men like George and Charley Bent were horribly affected by what they saw and from that time forward they considered themselves Cheyennes.

Racism has been different during my lifetime than how it was in the 1860s. The twentieth century saw lots of theft, incarceration, brutality, rape, and murder—so much so that I’m not going to even attempt to talk about it here. I don’t want to go into the American Indian Movement (AIM) in the 1960s, 1970s, and beyond, other than to say that I do not consider their continued fight to protect what was theirs while fighting racism as criminal activity. What was in place when I was young has never ended. Hopefully what is happening on the streets of America today can somehow lead the USA to become one country where every man, woman, and child are treated the same, and that is as human beings. When I was young, I thought that I’d live to see that day. As the days grow shorter, I’m doubtful. But hope burns eternally.

The legacy of the Sand Creek Massacre is present today, and it will most likely never end, never fade away. What happened on those two days of horror will live forever in infamy. Certainly for every Cheyenne, Arapaho, as well as many other American Indians living today. It is burned in their souls. It is also front-and-center in the lives of a lot of people I know, people I call friends (and some of them are Cheyennes), and they damn it.

This is how it should be, for November 29-30, 1864, were two days that can never be forgotten. This said, we cannot and should never censor history. If we do, this plague on humanity will continue to tear us apart until we figure out how to destroy life on earth as we know it. History must be told from all sides—from all sides. We’re all people with our views. Just because you disagree with me, or I with you, doesn’t make either of us evil. This is our world, and regardless of what we look like we’re all human beings.

What is the legacy of the Sand Creek Massacre? Don’t hate me, for I believe that the racial hatred of the 1860s is alive and thriving in the year 2020. It is on us to end it.

TE: Your career as a historian and writer has been hallmarked by books dealing with the intersection of the U.S. military and the American Indian. What prompted this interest in you early on?

LK: I like this question, but it is a question that you shouldn’t ask me for you are going to get a mouthful (Erik, please delete this sentence, for it was only for you).

I think that I discovered Errol Flynn and his films while in the fourth grade. Two Warner Bros. films stood out: The Sea Hawk (1940) and They Died with Their Boots On (1941) Many people think that The Sea Hawk was based on Rafael Sabatini’s classic novel. No. Warners Bros. had the rights to his book, but it wasn’t about an Elizabethan pirate during the time leading up to the Spanish Armada and the invasion of England in 1588. Instead it was about an English nobleman sold into slavery in North Africa, who later became an infamous Tunisian pirate who raided British ships. I highly recommend Flynn’s The Sea Hawk. This film led to me studying fencing with the U.S. Olympian Ralph Falkner, who turned actor, stunt double with swords on film, and eventually taught fencing in Hollywood, California. While in junior high school I studied under him, and in the only competition at his studio that I took part in I placed third in foil (my competition were all male adults). In college I took fencing in my first semester, was good enough with the foil that the coach asked me to join the team. I consented, providing I could learn and fight with a sabre, and only a sabre. Reason: almost all the great duels on film are shot with a combination of thrusting and slicing. She agreed. … This Flynn performance is important for it led to me studying acting in junior high school, high school, and college. Eventually I learned “swashbuckling” or stage combat, and would choreograph duels and swordfight on stage. Great times.

Now to They Died with Their Boots On, and on looking back, it, although not at first, has had a much greater impact on my life. Errol Flynn played George Armstrong Custer and Olivia de Havilland played his wife Elizabeth Bacon Custer (“Libbie” is the correct spelling of her nickname). I have written at least four articles about this film (including a cover story for American History (February 2008), and have spoken about it five times in four states (Missouri, Montana, Texas, and California). Mr. Custer and the American Indian wars (as depicted in this film) grabbed my interest and refused to let go. Back in those days long gone there were many bookstores in Hollywood, California, and one featured nonfiction western history books. I bought a lot of Custer books, read them, enjoyed them, but then the anti-hero worship again struck (at least in Southern California) in the 1960s. Custer was one of the people hardest hit, and he became a caricature that stood for racism and butchery of American Indians. By the end of the decade I boxed up all my Custer books. Luckily I exiled them to a closet and didn’t throw them away. In the late 1970s I visited Arizona (over the years I would spend between six and eight months of my life in Scottsdale, Tucson, and elsewhere hanging out, doing research in archives and on the road). On this trip I discovered Aaron and Ruth Cohen’s Guidon Books in Old Scottsdale, and immediately fell in love with their store. It was the beginning of a wonderful relationship with them. During that trip I visited their shop at least three times. They had a bookshelf that was perhaps seven or eight feet high that featured Custer books. I bought some, and before heading home I bought more. I read them all, and then rescued my exiled books and reread them. I was hooked and knew where my future headed.

Be patient, for everything that I do (or now more important to my writing) is interlinked. Everything.

In summer 1976 I played the lead in two plays in Lubbock, Texas.

Before moving forward here, let me say that I grew up with parents who had an open door to anyone, regardless of race, color, or religion. I had marched for Martin Luther King Jr., and in 1970 I joined VISTA (Volunteers in Service to America). This was like the Peace Corps but in the continental United States. I had hoped to work with American Indians (the other two choices were with Blacks and Chicanos, as they were called during my tenure). The training was in Austin, Texas (we housed in the dormitory where a sniper way back shot and killed people on the University of Texas; women on one floor, men on another). At that time they rolled up the sidewalks at 10:00 pm. Before that time we loaded up with beer and wine before returning to the dorm. One night in one of the dorm rooms I said something to a married couple that I liked. It didn’t bother them, but it did a Chicano leader who would soon pick volunteers to work with his people. Suddenly I had an arm around me, and a knife at my throat. It was about 2:00 am and there were between 15 and 20 people in the room. I told my attacker (and I knew his name, but not now) that if he killed me he would destroy his cause. He laughed and called me a number of choice names. I continued, and asked him if he intended to kill everyone else in the room, that is to eliminate all the witnesses. I don’t remember exactly what I said, but the words worked and he released me. Breakfast began at six, and to my shock I was a hero. Bleep no! I was one scared person who was thrilled to see the sun come up. When the time came I was quickly chosen to work and live with Blacks in Oklahoma City.

Back to Lubbock … During our first week we stayed in a motel (the director and three leading actors were from LA). My roommate was a Black actor named Jim Reynolds. We hit it off immediately. However, our first visit to the motel’s restaurant let me know what was coming. The waitress gave me a menu and a cup of coffee. When she returned, I said: “Where’s his coffee and menu?” She gave me a dirty look but did as requested. During my three months there I saw a lot that turned my stomach upside down (some good too). When I returned to Los Angeles I wrote a screenplay about my experience. The agent I submitted it to, said, “This is terrible, but let’s talk.” We did, and he became my agent for the next seven years. We came close to selling and optioning screenplays, but never did. Often I dealt with race relations. My favorite was called Wonderboat, which dealt with a U-Boat commander during WWII, the downfall of Nazi Germany, and his Jewish girlfriend. A producer wanted to produce it, but only if I moved the story to WWI and removed the Jewish connection. I refused.

In 1984 I decided that I needed to make money with my writing. I quit writing screenplays and began selling magazine articles. Since I played competition softball year round, knew baseball, and spent time with Brooklyn and Los Angeles Dodgers great Duke Snider (and even pitched him on writing his biography with him; unfortunately he had already signed a contract to coauthor what would be published as The Duke of Flatbush, 1988). I had a number of articles on the Duke, as well as my favorite baseball player of all time—Bill Buckner. Most of what he accomplished during his career he did on one leg, and my articles about him were all published while he was still playing.

The baseball writing was just to get my foot in the published writing door. I did an about-face and began writing about the American Indian wars. A feature on George Armstrong Custer would be my second published article in this category.

This opened a floodgate that would soon blossom to talks, a novel, and finally to nonfiction: Custer and the Cheyenne: George Armstrong Custer’s Winter Campaign on the Southern Plains (Upton and Sons, Publishers, 1995; and God bless Dick and Frankie Upton, for without them my nonfiction book future would have never been). The focus of this book dealt with Custer’s efforts to roundup the Southern Cheyennes and Arapahos without further bloodshed after his November 27, 1868, surprise attack on Cheyenne Chief Black Kettle’s Washita village in Indian Territory (almost four years to the day had passed since Sand Creek, but this time the chief and his wife didn’t survive the attack). Custer had two armies behind him and they craved blood. Custer pulled off his task with no additional deaths.

The above is all key to who I am as a writer today. I’m lucky for I’ve been in control of my writing path every step of the way.

TE: What about Geronimo? What kind of a man was he?
LK: I think that this question should move above the Gatewood question, and have moved it upward. The reason is a film, Geronimo: An American Legend, for without this film there would have never been two Gatewood/Apache books. Hope that you agree.

LK: I know film intimately, and study it all the time. The reason is simple: I can’t begin to tell you how much it helps me as a writer—plot development, character, dialogue, and transitions from one plot point to the next. Yes! This is totally valid for a nonfiction writer.

In regards to Geronimo, I think that we have to start with a film about him: Geronimo: An American Legend (Columbia, 1993), with Wes Studi playing him. I saw the film twice when it opened in Los Angeles in December 1993. I loved the grandeur, scope, and some of the character development, but hated the lack of focus. That title states that it is about Geronimo but there are too many other characters that have major focus, and shouldn’t. If there was to be a second lead it would be Lieutenant Charles Gatewood, and he had plenty of focus in this film. I was good with that, but not the large focus on scout Al Sieber and General George Crook. Also, there were too many other players that shouldn’t have been in the film. Read that much of this film was total fiction (perhaps even more than Flynn’s They Died with Their Boots On). Oh yeah, fiction dominates this film, although I didn’t know this in 1993. Actually I knew nothing about Geronimo or Gatewood at that time. Zero! Two years later in April 1995 I visited Aaron and Ruth Cohen at Guidon Books to sign Custer and the Cheyenne. Our talk turned to film and how it impacts book sales. Tombstone (1993) with Kurt Russell and Val Kilmer had been a major hit at the box office and increased Wyatt Earp and Doc Holliday sales while Geronimo: An American Legend failed at the box office and had no impact on Geronimo sales. During the course of our conversation Ruth told me about the Charles Gatewood Collection at the Arizona Historical Society in Tucson. The following month I took a week off (nine days), visited the collection, and was blown away. In June I took two weeks off (16 days). At that time Gatewood put Wynkoop on hold and became my next nonfiction project. Two years later it became a joint biography about two men on collision course—Gatewood & Geronimo. I can never begin to tell you what this book has meant to my life and career.

Before moving forward, I want to say that Wes Studi’s portrayal of Geronimo was magnificent, as have been some of his other filmed performances. He is great actor, and his honorary Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences Lifetime Achievement award this year was long overdue. I luckily met him shortly after Dances with Wolves (1990) was released in an American Indian gift shop in Tarzana (a suburb in Los Angeles in the San Fernando Valley) in 1990. He was excited and I enjoyed our half hour or so of time together. Alas, I’ve never seen him since.

Every time I have written or spoken about Geronimo I have tried to be in his viewpoint. Trust me, for this hasn’t been hard to do. Beginning in 1851 when he lost his first wife and family in a raid in Río de Janos in Mexico until his final surrender in fall 1886 he would lose more wives, children, family members, friends, and tribal members to death or abduction. His outrage was instantaneous and totally justified. There were major cultural and political ideologies at stake during the Chiricahua Apaches’ long fight with Mexico and the United States to keep their land, their culture, their lifeway, their language, their religion, their children, and their freedom. Geronimo was a mystic and war leader, and more—for he was a survivor.

What happened to him and his loved ones over the course of his lifetime was unbelievable. Often he, the Bedonkohe (his band of the Chiricahua Apaches) as well as all the other bands of Chiricahuas have been branded as aggressive outlaws who raided, raped, stole, and killed at random on both sides of the American-Mexican border. There are some good historians who made it clear that the Chiricahuas considered the land that they claimed was theirs. They had nothing to do with the Americans’ land grab from Mexico, but suddenly their land wasn’t their land in the north (and ditto in the south). They didn’t sign any treaties giving away their land. It was still their land, and Geronimo, Naiche, and those who dared to fight for their freedom and lifeway became murderers, robbers, and worse. What about all the murder, rape, abduction, and constant fear of attack that they had to deal with, live with, during their lives? They were in the way of American progress, and what the hell! They had no rights! I’ve often seen Geronimo listed as a chief. He was never a chief. I’ve also seen him listed as little more than a hellion who never came close to becoming a leader, for all he cared about was himself and his immediate situation. Read the facts about his life, and you’ll quickly see what he had to deal with. He reacted with hate, anger, and vengeance. How would I react in the same situation? How would you react? How are many people in the United States today reacting?

This question is about Geronimo, but I’m sorry, for it is also about me, you, and everyone else in our homeland today. If this generates hate and anger at me, that’s life. I’ve been there before, and I deal with it more often than I want in my life. Way too many times I’ve been called a racist and traitor to my own kind and my homeland. What a bleeping joke!

Geronimo was a patriot, and he had the guts to fight back against what he considered wrong. He lived during a time of violence when his lifeway was coming to an end for all time. We’ve all suffered tragedy during our lifetimes, some of us more than others, but when looking at Geronimo’s life it was an ongoing hell without end. Regardless of what you think about him, he was a very intelligent man. He knew how to fight, when to fight, and when to run. Moreover, he had no intention of giving up the fight for his freedom until that fatal day in September 1886 when he, Naiche, and the remnants of their followers discussed surrendering with Lieutenant Charles Gatewood and returning to the United States to become prisoners of war. As Gatewood had told Naiche and him, surrender, for if not all of you will die.

Geronimo, Naiche, and their followers (less than 40 men, women, and children) surrendered. They would be lied to, but not by Gatewood. For the rest of Geronimo’s life he was a prisoner of war. Still he learned how to survive in the white man’s world of incarceration. Actually he became a celebrity, and realized that if he could sign his name he could earn money. He extended his marketability and began signing photographs of himself (as well as maps). He had not only learned how to play the white man’s game, he excelled at it. Unfortunately General Nelson Miles’s promise that he and those who surrendered with him 1886 would only be exiled to Florida for two years was a lie. When he died in 1909 he was still a prisoner of war.

I have often been asked if I could pick one American Indian who would you select? I don’t have one, I have two: Geronimo and Black Kettle.

TE: Let’s talk about Lt. Charles Gatewood who was the subject of two of your earlier books. Who was he and why do people today not remember his contributions to the taming of the west?

LK: First Lieutenant Charles Gatewood (Sixth U.S. Cavalry) convinced Naiche (the last hereditary Chiricahua chief), Geronimo, and the remnants of their people still with them in Mexico to return to the United States and surrender in fall 1886. He was known as a (General George) “Crook man” as he had served under him, but they had a huge falling out in 1884. At that time Gatewood, who had been a commander of Apache scouts, was in charge of the White Mountain Indian Reservation, headquartered at Fort Apache, Arizona Territory. That year Arizona Territorial Judge Francis M. Zuck defrauded Gatewood’s wards (the White Mountain Apaches), and the lieutenant arrested him. The judge was outraged. Crook agreed with Zuck, and ordered Gatewood to drop the charges. Gatewood refused. When the trial began, the presiding judge dismissed the case on a technicality: Zuck was a judge and should be in his own district presiding over his court. Zuck immediately arrested Gatewood for felonious false arrest. Gatewood appealed to Crook, who turned his back on him. When Gatewood’s trial began, the presiding judge tossed out the case, as the arrest of Zuck had taken place on an Indian reservation and U.S. courts had no jurisdiction on Indian land. For all intensive purposes this destroyed what had been a good working relationship between Gatewood and Crook.

In March 1886 Geronimo and those with him appeared at Cañon de los Embudos, Sonora, to speak with Crook (Gatewood wasn’t present). On the 25th Geronimo told the general why he left the reservation in 1885 (he thought that he would be murdered), of wanting peace, while unhappy with newspapers stating that he should be hanged. He wanted his actions deleted. While he spoke Crook refused to look at him; this angered Geronimo. When Crook did speak, he called Geronimo a liar.

The following morning Geronimo told Crook that he, Naiche, and the others wanted to return to the White Mountains as they had in 1883. Crook refused; they had to spend two years in Florida. After agreeing to surrender and return to the States, and at a camp while traveling northward, Geronimo, Naiche, and some of their followers feared being killed. In the wee hours they vanished into the night.

Crook had failed and was soon gone and Miles now commanded the mop-up operation of the Chiricahua Apaches that had refused to surrender. Many of troops patrolled the U.S.-Mexico border, while others from the Fourth U.S. Cavalry were in Mexico hunting the warring Indians (less than 40 men, women, and children) with one goal—to kill them. Many of these officers would win Medals of Honor for their actions. Not Gatewood, who was ill when Miles summoned him to his headquarters in July 1886 and ordered him to find Geronimo in Mexico and get him to surrender.

Gatewood wasn’t part of Miles’s campaign of capturing and destroying the warring Apaches, but the first lieutenant would pull off an impossible task while the Fourth Cavalry continued to hunt the Apaches. After talking Geronimo and Naiche into returning to the USA and ending the current Apache war, he did everything possible to get them back to the United States. This was not an easy task as both the Mexican authorities and the U.S. troops wanted them dead. This included convincing Geronimo to meet with Jesus Aguirre, the prefect who commanded the Sonoran district of Arispe (headquartered at Fronteras, Mexico), and defusing an attempt by two officers in the Fourth U.S. Cavalry (Surgeon Leonard Wood and First Lieutenant Abiel Smith) that plotted to kill Geronimo. For more on this see Gatewood & Geronimo (University of New Mexico Press, 2000) and Lt. Charles Gatewood & His Apache Wars Memoir (University of Nebraska Press, 2005). Gatewood was a first lieutenant in 1886; he was still a first lieutenant when he died in 1896, while many of Miles’s officers (captain and lieutenants) in Mexico that summer and fall of 1886 were colonels and generals when they retired or died. Miles totally wrote Gatewood out of the last Apache war. To quickly get an idea of Gatewood’s contribution to what happened in Mexico in late summer-early fall 1886 see a talk that I gave at an Order of the Indian Wars Geronimo symposium in Tucson on September 26, 2013: “Gatewood’s Assignment: Geronimo” (on YouTube, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=F3AaI2l8J6I).

TE: How would men like Gatewood and Geronimo fit in modern-day conflicts?

LK: N/A per our email back and forth.

TE: What is next for Louis Kraft?

LK: My next nonfiction book is Errol & Olivia, which deals with the life and times of actors Errol Flynn and Olivia de Havilland during their time at Warner Bros. in the 1930s and 1940s. Between 1935 and 1941 they made eight films together, and their onscreen chemistry was real and vibrant. Three of their films were westerns: Dodge City (1939), Santa Fe Trail (1940), and They Died with Their Boots On. (By the way, I talked about Flynn, de Havilland, and the Santa Fe Trail in Scottsdale, Arizona, in 2005. Afterward I realized how important this talk was to my upcoming manuscript, and have never again shared this information. Luckily the talk wasn’t filmed.) Surprisingly Errol and Olivia seldom had any personal contact except on their film sets. There were many reasons for this, and much of what has been printed about their relationship is false. Shockingly some of the untruths have been reprinted so often that they are no longer cited and worse, accepted as fact.

As stated above I discovered Errol Flynn while in elementary school, and he has remained with me all these years. Luckily in Los Angeles Flynn’s films still play in movie theaters (although not in 2020 due to the theaters being shut down). Without realizing what I was doing I began researching Flynn at an early age. At first just for myself, but in the early 1990s I began thinking about writing a book about him. This led to the articles and talks.

In 1995 professor, historian, and friend Eric Niderost knew of my Flynn project and shared Olivia’s address in Paris, France. I wrote her once, twice, and perhaps three times with no response to questions about Flynn. This obviously wasn’t working, so I turned on my charm and began sending her Christmas and birthday cards, gifts (mostly my books and articles), and another letter dealing with an article that would soon be printed that dealt with They Died with Their Boots On, which as it turned out would be the last film they made together although neither knew this at that time. She did reply to this letter, but too late for that article. … Everything changed for the better when I sent her a hardbound copy of Gatewood & Geronimo in 2000. She liked the book and my approach to the Flynn manuscript, and answered quite a number of questions I had sent her in 1999. This opened a floodgate that led to her inviting me to visit her at her Paris home to interview her (first in 2004 and again in 2009), and to her big 2006 shindig at the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences in Beverly Hills, California, when the Academy honored her and her film career. It has included roughly twenty-plus years of correspondence, and this influenced me on how I would move forward.

I believe that it was sometime in 2002 that my Flynn book became a story of two people over the course of roughly 15 years—that is Errol & Olivia. Over the last 25 years I have accumulated a massive amount of primary source material. Los Angeles is a goldmine for those who write about the Golden Age of the Cinema, and for me the center-point is the USC Warner Bros. Archives. For the record, I’m approaching this book just as I have with all my nonfiction Indian wars books.

Pailin and Louis Kraft, and an upcoming date with our future

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


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

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

**********

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

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Pailin in the front yard of Tujunga House, shortly after she moved in (17nov2013). Last year I published a blog called, “Who says they don’t raise cowgirls in Thailand and other stories of Sand Creek,” and I featured this image. As soon as I took this photo of her it became one of my all-time favorites, and it is on my desk. (photo © Pailin Subanna-Kraft & Louis Kraft 2013)

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

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

“No way, never”

In June 2013 I set up a dinner party with four friends that I met earlier in this century during Errol Flynn events that brought us together.

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

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

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

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Nam and Pailin in the backyard of Tujunga House on 15jun2013. (photo © Pailin Subanna-Kraft & Louis Kraft 2013)

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

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

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This is the only photo I have of Pailin and myself that was taken (off her phone) on 15jun2013. We are with Annette and Robert. The orchids that Pailin brought are in the foreground. (photo © Pailin Subanna-Kraft & Louis Kraft 2013)

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

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

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

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

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

The beginning

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Pailin in the Tujunga House dinning room (2sept2013). We have spent a lot of good times in this room; eating, joking, talking serious, working on English and Thai words. (photo © Pailin Subanna-Kraft & Louis Kraft 2013)

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

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

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

A tragic time

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

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

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

Our first adventure

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

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

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

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


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

I didn’t have any photos of the talk and Mike Koury (OIW) kindly supplied me with two the other day. I gave the talk at the Radisson Suites Tucson on 26sept2013. The next day Mike and his crew of Apache experts led a three-day tour that tracked Geronimo and the Apaches through the American Southwest.


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

Guidon Books, Old Scottsdale, Az.

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

Montezuma Castle National Monument

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

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

Williams, Az., the gateway to the Grand Canyon

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

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

The Grand Canyon … for a morning plus

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

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South Rim of the Grand Canyon, Az. The fawns allowed Pailin to get close to them, but when I approached to take a photo that showed how close she had gotten to them I became one human too many and they took off. (photo © Pailin Subanna-Kraft and Louis Kraft 28sept2013)

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

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

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

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

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

September 29, 2013

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Hours passed, and it was time to return to Las Vegas and reality. Another helicopter ride and that would be cool. But a sadness hung over us for we both knew that our trip would soon end, for the next day, 30sept2013, we would drive back to Los Angeles.

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

LK’s past and a peek into who I am

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

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I discovered 19 B & W negatives in 2013 that were dumped at Tujunga House in 2010 as part of two truck loads of boxes that supposedly belonged to my dead sister. Actually much of it belonged to my father and mother, and my sister had taken a goldmine of documents and images that I didn’t know existed. The negatives had become corrupted over the years. As negatives for creating prints they were useless. A disaster since there were images of my mother, father, his best friend & partner, my brother, and me—roughly from the 1971-1973 time period. At the time I was writing a blog titled “A gunslinger in a bathroom” and needed something. This image suits me and my dark view of racism. (art © Louis Kraft 2013)

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

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

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

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

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

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

Enter Pailin in a way I never dreamed possible

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

Ever.

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

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An image of Pailin late at night on 16aug2013 in her apartment. We were using Skype, and as you can see she is totally relaxed. I’m the little blip on the upper right of the screen. I only use Macs after spending decades using UNIX, PCs, and being introduced to Macs twice (the second time on my request). At the end of my tenure with Sun Microsystems I had a PC laptop, a UNIX box, a Mac laptop, and viewed everything on an oversized monitor, … ‘course when the network went belly up I would be dead in the water). You do not want to know my opinion of PCs; it is unprintable. (Image © Pailin Subanna-Kraft & Louis Kraft 2013)

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

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

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

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

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

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

A merging of cultures

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A new life for us

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

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

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

Thanksgiving 2013

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

Pailin is a marvelous cook; she enjoys cooking and it is one of her pleasures in life. I can’t go into detail with her cooking here, but she could easily open a restaurant that would serve superior-tasting dishes. My problem is that she can cook so many great meals and in so many different ways that she seldom repeats a meal. My problem is that when I really like a meal I want to eat again and again (that is, not once and let’s move on). Without going into detail her soups and main dishes are out of this world.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pailin meets Vee

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

Vee Morra (left with Pailin), became my friend at the end of the 1960s, when she and her husband, Doug Matheson, and I connected. Doug, an actor, also obtained his B.A. from theTheatre Department (now California State University, Northridge). Times change and Vee and Doug divorced, but eventually moved to Massachusetts to be near their son. I’m proud to say that they remained friends, and toward the end of his life she took care of him. Vee is open, inquisitive, and a true and loyal friend. She and Pailin quickly became friends on 12dec2013, something I was thrilled to see. They are sitting in the living room at Tujunga House. (photo © Pailin Subanna-Kraft, Veronica Morra, and Louis Kraft, 2013)

Pailin is one happy lady as she works at redesigning Tujunga House on 19dec2013. This is one of my favorites of her. (photo © Pailin Subanna-Kraft & Louis Kraft 2014)

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

Christmas

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

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Pete and Nina Senoff came over to hang out and share a Christmas dinner on 26dec2013. (photo © Pailin Subanna-Kraft, Louis Kraft, Pete & Nina Senoff, 2013)

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

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

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

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Pailin & LK at Wat Thai of North Hollywood on 31dec2013. We moved through the festivities enjoying ourselves. We saw friends, and Pailin saw friends that I met that night. As the midnight hour approached the monks led prayers in the main room (second floor) and in a room on street level). This is an important religious holiday for the Thai people, and let me tell you that everyone made me feel welcome. I am not an outsider. (photo © Pailin Subanna-Kraft & Louis Kraft 2013)

New Year’s Eve

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The importance of February 14

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

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

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

February 14, 2014

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Pailin and I arrived late at the Albertson Chapel, having been caught in traffic. This image was taken shortly after we arrived. Left to right: Sabrina Subanna, Kobie Poopan, Annie Aunroun, and Pailin. Right rear: Jackie Vinai and Anna Pinij). (photo © Pailin Subanna-Kraft 2014)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

April and the Errol Flynn connection

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

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

Jack and Louise Marino hosted a party at their Burbank, Ca., home, a party that I would have missed. Jack and Louise only lived a few miles from Tujunga House so the drive wasn’t too uncomfortable.

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

I know a lot of Flynn people due to my Flynn writing. But on this day, other than seeing friends I had the great bonus of meeting two gents that I knew long distance but not in person. David DeWitt, who hosts a terrific Flynn blog (The Errol Flynn Blog), and Tom McNulty and his wonderful wife Jan. Tom wrote by far the best biography on Flynn (Errol Flynn: The Life and Career, McFarland and Company, Inc., 2004). BTW, Tom has a unique blog that reviews literature and at times adds his comments about Flynn and his work (Thomas McNulty’s Blog).

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

Jump forward five years to April 2014

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

The Thai New Year

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

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Left to right: LK, Belle Marsan Henning, Sabrina Subanna, Pailin, and Cherry Keawpanyo standing on the balcony of the main floor of Wat Thai of Los Angeles on 13apr2013. (photo © Pailin Subanna-Kraft & Louis Kraft 2014)

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

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LK with two of his favorite ladies on the Thai New Year (13apr2014), my life and love Pailin, and her niece, my very special in-law Sabrina Subanna. We are on the balcony outside the main room of Wat Thai. (photo © Pailin Subanna-Kraft, Sabrina Subanna, and Louis Kraft 2014)

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

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

Flynn continued to dominate our spring

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

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

Good timing for us as Pailin had the day off. I thought her first complete viewing of an Errol Flynn film would be one of his swashbucklers or westerns as she likes action films. She had seen the end of San Antonio (1945) and Adventures of Don Juan (1948) when I hadn’t completed exercising before she arrived home at night (I exercise with film as it is a great way to study plot, character, and dialogue, and in the case of Flynn a good way to study his acting as I’m writing about it). She liked both. She would now see The Roots of Heaven, which dealt with saving elephants in Africa. Flynn had a supporting role.

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

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

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

The writing world put on hold

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Pailin with Doris and Bob Goodman. Flemings Restaurant in Woodland Hills, Ca., on 26jun2014 (photo © Pailin Subanna-Kraft, Louis Kraft, Doris & Bob Goodman (2014)

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

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

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LK with Bob Goodman at Flemings Restaurant on 26jun2014. Bob and I have partnered on The Discovery. (photo © Pailin Subanna-Kraft, Louis Kraft, and Bob Goodman (2014)

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

At Flemings Doris and Bob didn’t allow Pailin’s vocabulary or shyness to hinder this first meeting. Doris was absolutely marvelous and within half an hour she and Pailin had bonded big time. And Bob was right there with Doris in opening up to Pailin’s charm.

A July 3, 2014, notice

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

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

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

The Fourth of July

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

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

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

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

Trust me, the 4th of July is not my favorite holiday as I view it as little more than a fire watch. The police? Hell they get the night off (absolutely no sirens or patrol cars on 4jul2014; on any other day at least half a dozen).

And July 5, 2014, which is a special day

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

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

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

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

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

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

And in conclusion

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

Sand Creek Massacre, The Discovery, Errol & Olivia and Ned Wynkoop Updates

Website & blogs © Louis Kraft 2013-2020

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


Sand Creek and the Tragic End of a Lifeway

The Sand Creek manuscript differs from my previous nonfiction work in that it features multiple leading players as opposed to one or two.

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LK in costume as Billy the Kid (sans the revolver and gun belt). A 1969 publicity photo taken by Dennis Riley, who was then a photographer’s mate in the U.S. Navy. This photo session was the first of many over the years. Dennis and I became close during our high school years and this lasted through my four years of college, his college and military service, and after. We were constantly in trouble but he was always there for me and me for him. Those days are long gone. (photo © Louis Kraft 1969)

This includes my written plays in which I have performed. They date back to 1969 with Lew and Billy (Billy the Kid’s meeting with New Mexico Territorial Governor Lew Wallace); 1982’s The Fencing Lesson (a man and a woman cross sabers with deadly intent in a battle of the sexes); the Wynkoop one-man plays that have played in four states, and 2009’s Cheyenne Blood, which again featured two characters—Ned Wynkoop and the Cheyenne woman Mo-nahs-e-tah, who survived bloody attacks on Cheyenne villages (Sand Creek, 1864; and Washita, 1868). This is the phonetic spelling of her name.

Yes, Sand Creek and the Tragic End of a Lifeway is going to be a stretch.

How do I bring the leading players to life? How do I mix and connect the leading players’ story lines? And how do I create text that flows while remaining true to the facts and not putting the readers to sleep?

These are big questions, and they live with me every day.

And of course there are welcome interruptions

In 2001 Fray Angélico Chávez History Library (part of the New Mexico History Museum, Santa Fe) curator Tomas Jaehn (pronounced “Yen”) began the process to create “The Louis Kraft Collection.” A number of years later my then girlfriend Diane Moon wanted to know why Tomas was interested in my work and associated documentation? I told her I didn’t know. “Didn’t you ask?” “No.” “Why not?” I told her that I had been associated with the library since the 1980s, Tomas was interested in my work and letters, and that was good enough for me.

Good enough for me, but not for her.

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I met Tomas Jaehn shortly after he replaced Orlando Romero at the New Mexico History Museum. Eventually the archival portion of the museum would be renamed the Chávez History Library. We hit it off immediately. There’s really nothing more to say here other than I’m lucky to know my good friend.

In 2006 I did a 10-day road trip to the Chávez to make an archive delivery and near the end of the trip talk about “Gatewood’s Administration of the White Mountain Indian Reservation” (during the 1880s Lt. Charles Gatewood, 6th U.S. Cavalry, commanded a troop of Apache scouts and administered the Apache reservation headquartered at Fort Apache, Arizona Territory). Diane flew to Albuquerque on July 2 and spent a few days in Santa Fe before flying home on July 5. She met Tomas when I made the delivery on the third.

I knew what was coming. “Why him?” she asked Tomas when he gave her a tour of where and how the collections were preserved. She insisted upon seeing the Louis Kraft Collection. I wasn’t sure what was about to happen, but knew something would. As it turned out Tomas liked my body of work. More important he felt that since a good portion of my work dealt with Gatewood and the Apache wars and Ned Wynkoop and the Cheyennes that it was ideal for the Chávez, which houses the most complete Edward W. Wynkoop Collection.

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LK in front of the original entry to the NM History Museum (4jul2006) during the trip to Santa Fe to make a delivery to the archive. This entry still exists but is no longer used to enter the Fray Angélico Chávez History Library. Times have changed, and I think for the better. (photo © Louis Kraft 2006)

Before and since the creation of the archive Tomas has done everything to aid my writing and speaking efforts, as well as help me obtain documents and primary source images. Over the years he and Audrey, his wife, have become good friends.

That July Tomas told me about a primary source Sand Creek battle participant document that the Chávez was considering purchasing from a private collection. I reviewed it for Tomas. During the course of our conversations he said I could use this to-date unused view of events in Sand Creek and the Tragic End of a Lifeway (if the library buys the document; and if not, he thought he could convince the document owner to allow me to use it). Fingers are crossed, as there is information worth sharing. I should know the final outcome soon. Unfortunately I can’t share any details at this time.

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George Bird Grinnell completed a massive amount of research over his life documenting American Indians (mostly Cheyennes and Pawnees, but other tribes also). His papers are at the Braun Research Library, Southwest Museum, which is now part of the Autry National Center, Los Angeles, California. The Grinnell Papers take 77 pages to list the folders and diaries. I have 12 days booked at the Braun in the future and have submitted the first round of documents that I must read. Twenty-seven folders and diaries, and this is just the beginning of what I will view before completing my Grinnell research for the Sand Creek manuscript. Earlier I had mined the Grinnell Papers for Ned Wynkoop and the Lonely Road from Sand Creek, but that research centered on Cheyennes that played roles in Wynkoop’s life. I have a fair amount of Grinnell’s writing in-house, but from past experience his research notes are where the gold will be found.

A glimpse into the LK creative world

Add my ongoing high wire act while juggling a life that is so crowded that at times it feels as if I’m being yanked in four directions at the same time.

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Pailin at the Egyptian Theatre in Hollywood, Ca., on 15may2014 for a screening of Errol Flynn’s last A-film (and his next to last film), the 1958 release of director John Huston’s The Roots of Heaven. I caught a great shot of her here for I was able to eliminate the crowd (the screening was co-sponsored by the French Consulate in LA).  Pailin is very aware of my Flynn/de Havilland writing, and this wasn’t my choice for her first complete Flynn film (she had caught the tail end of Adventures of Don Juan and San Antonio when she arrived home from work earlier than expected (and was glued to the TV screen), for I had been carefully plotting her initial introduction to Mr. Flynn’s screen persona. That said I couldn’t refuse seeing Roots on the big screen. At this time Pailin prefers adventures (and is certainly drawn to the American West), but the film has scope and didn’t bore her. BTW, I study film five nights a week. Reason: a writer can learn a lot about plot, character, and dialogue viewing good films. (photo © Pailin Subanna-Kraft & Louis Kraft 2014)

Pailin’s application for a Green Card has been filed and moves forward. This means that I have begun preparing an extensive photo album that shows that she and I are who we claim. At the same time she and I need to prepare carefully for our immigration interviews.

Let’s not forget my writing projects: The Discovery, Errol & Olivia, Sand Creek and the Tragic End of a Lifeway, and that Geronimo article I owe Greg Lalire at Wild West. It now has firm deadline and publication dates. (I will make the deadline if it kills me; unless he takes aim at me first.) In addition to the article I need to complete a portrait of Geronimo that I promised. To date I’ve created two of Mr. G, but don’t like either. This means back to the drawing board. The Flynn projects (E&O + the second book on EF) are major pieces in my life. They must be completed and published. Like Wynkoop, Charles Gatewood, and the Indians and their lives, Mr. Flynn has influenced my life. Actually EF, his film roles and life, have played a major role in my life. Certainly he opened the world of the Indian wars and racism to me.

As the subtitle of my website reads, “Follow the winding trail of a writer as he walks a solitary road …” implies I have spent a lot of time alone. At the same time I’ve never been lonely. Boy, talk about two sentences that state opposites. My friends are good and they are always with me even though most don’t live nearby.

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LK at the 2012 Western Heritage Wrangler Awards in OK City. An article of mine, “When Wynkoop was Sheriff,” won a Wrangler. A cool and fun three-day event. (photo © Ownbey Photography 2012)

For me writing is a fight and a struggle. This is a constant, and it is every day. If it weren’t a fight and a struggle why bother? Creativity and finding what is hopefully close to truth doesn’t happen with reading a few facts and then typing a few paragraphs. That’s just the beginning. What has been read may be wrong, which in turn makes my paragraphs wrong. The creativity results from years of not buying into “the easy” or worse “the set premise that must be confirmed at all costs,” but by maintaining an open mind and allowing the discovery of truth and often this isn’t what I expected to find. And this must dictate the story line. Writing, and I don’t care if it in nonfiction, fiction, or whatever, needs a number pieces to work together seamlessly. We’re talking facts, hard cold facts combined with prose that propels the story and doesn’t put the reader to sleep. Sometimes I’ll spend hours on a single paragraph, and if not satisfied more hours. Merging the facts with writing style takes me years to complete, and knowing this has made it mandatory for me to buy into my subjects 100 percent before I write a single word of the manuscript. If I don’t buy into my projects 100 percent, I would walk away from them long before they reached completion.

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The Santa Barbara, Ca., art was created in 1977 for my then theatrical manager, Richard Steel Reed. This was a commissioned work (for $300.00), but eventually the art would return to me. The sketch of Patric Spann, was one of many I created for Infonet Services Corporation in the late 1990s when I served as editor-in-chief, art director, designer, staff writer, photographer, and artist for an engineering newsletter that I pitched and created, and which was distributed to Infonet’s offices in 68 countries. A cool job that I had one hell of a lot of fun doing (art © Louis Kraft 1977 & drawing © Louis Kraft 1997)

Over the years I have learned that there are additional ways to add value to the story and bring in extra cash. Money is a necessity. In the past I lived in a world that handed me bags of greenbacks. This allowed me to do whatever I pleased whenever I pleased. Extended research trips with stays in first-class hotels (when available) were the norm.

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These images represent my wanderlust without a money care. The top image is of me at the helm on the half deck of the pirate Francis Drake’s Golden Hinde II, a replica of the vessel that he circumnavigated the globe in between 1577–1580. Originally the helm had a whipstaff; the wheel didn’t exist in Drake’s day. I’ve been aboard this vessel three times (its maiden voyage to San Francisco, Ca., in 1976, it’s voyage to Oxnard, Ca., in 1985, and in London, England, in 2009). I’m one with the sea and hope that I will live long enough to write about Drake. The black & white image was shot by my great friend George Carmichael, whom I met at UCLA during the early 1980s. Initially George and I butted horns in a fiction class, a clash that resulted in a 30 year friendship. George died at the age of 90 on April 2, 2014. I’m still struggling with his passing, as he was one of the major players in my life. (photos © Louis Kraft 2001 & 2009)

Mr. Shakespeare aptly said in his soliloquy about the phases of life:–

“All the world’s a stage,
And all the men and women merely players … “

… and I have entered one of the later stages of life. This point of my life has changed my entire outlook and has made my focus not on money but on what is important to me.

I don’t write for companies anymore. I only write for me and the companies that contract my freelance writing. The select few publishing companies that I choose to write for will continue to pay me as long as I write cutting-edge prose that is hopefully close to truth, prose that moves and doesn’t put their readers to sleep, and of course don’t piss them off too much. As long as I can do this, my publishers (and they are top notch) will continue to print my words.

They may cringe at my opinions, and at my blogs (when they read them), and even worse when I commit heresy and submit my art while questioning their designed layout that is considerably less than sparkling (I’m being kind here). Although rough around the edges (and I’m being kind to myself here), my art (no matter how juvenile or simplistic, or worse) has brought in money dating back to 1976. … In 1996, and while still an employee of the first software company that I wrote for, Infonet Services Corporation (now British Telecom Infonet), I watched the documentation department disappear (similar to the dreadful play, and worse films, Ten Little Indians). But as I wasn’t ready to become history I reinvented myself and created a web-based system that documented one of Infonet’s major tools for in-house consumption. As I already had design and newsletter experience in a hands-on and managerial capacity I pitched a glossy newsletter to Mike Watson, director of Information Services (Research & Development), and he bought it. This wasn’t ego-based, rather it was simply keeping me employed and earning the almighty buck. More important, I learned to go after what I wanted (or in this case what I needed). It bought me a couple of years, good years, until I decided to move over to the space industry.

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This image is a work in progress. It displays Cheyenne warriors talking before setting out to hunt. Although I may use it in a publication someday, I am almost 100 percent certain that it won’t see print in Sand Creek and the Tragic End of a Lifeway. But then again, who knows? (art © Louis Kraft 2014)

This leads to creating art for publication, which can lead to multiple printings in various formats (and extra cash). Of course there is a downside. Sometimes snide critics frown upon a writer using art that he created in his written works. I guess they support the system of using often used images (which is unfortunately the case) one more time as opposed to adding something new to a publication. I’m big on collages too, for collages count as one image in book or magazine form. More important, they can visually support the text and add value to the printed work. Another no-no? Probably, but I’ve moved beyond nitpicks that are based upon a long in-place vision on how nonfiction should be presented.

Currently I’m considering using art for illustrating Sand Creek and the Tragic End of a Lifeway. When I restored and fine-tuned (with documented permission from the various archives) all the images and photos for my submission to the University of Oklahoma Press for Ned Wynkoop and the Lonely Road from Sand Creek, my friend and editor-in-chief Chuck Rankin told me that I didn’t need to do this. Moreover, he said that he wanted his writers to write. I ignored him. If he reads this blog I hope he’s sitting. That said, Chuck, at the moment the above is just a consideration for the image delivery. Will it happen? Probably not. Of course I’m a firm believer in never saying “never.”

When it comes to writing progress is king

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Celebrating Olivia de Havilland’s 93rd birthday in her Paris garden on July 3, 2009 (her BD is on July 1). She is a pure joy to know: Bright, funny, sexy, political, and oh-so caring. In this image she is looking at her birthday card. Two of her gifts are on the table (others included flowers, photos, and various writing). As every time I’ve been with her, this day and evening did not disappoint. (photo © Louis Kraft 2009)

Errol & Olivia
At the moment Errol & Olivia lags behind. For those of you interested in this book on Ms. Livvie and Errol, don’t worry. It doesn’t matter how far I may fall behind in word count, for whenever I write the fingers dance over the keys. This book has two goals: Bring Mr. Flynn and Ms. de Havilland to life while detailing their life and times between 1935 and 1941. The manuscript includes a prologue and an extensive epilogue. I am attempting a biographical approach that I’ve never seen before. Most of the writing about Flynn and de Havilland in book form (fully 60 percent) is repeated cliché, by that I mean that often the tomes merely repeat what has already been written. Truths and errors, and sometimes out-and-out lies, are repeated over and over again. Flynn and de Havilland were not, as unscrupulous writers have proclaimed, who you think they were (or in OdeH’s case, as she is). This book, and the following book on EF, will be the best two books I write. Patience is the key.

The Discovery
As the readers of my blogs know, I have partnered with Robert S. Goodman, MD, to produce a malpractice novel. The Discovery is Bob’s story idea and Bob has done a lot of work on the plot, including creating first class medical and legal detail. My job is to wordsmith and bring the characters and plot to life.

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Robert S. Goodman, MD, in his office on 30may2014. Bob & I had a good review/update meeting on May 28. We spoke on the phone on the 29th and per my request he was answering questions I had and reviewing the manuscript. I told I wanted additional photos of him and we agreed on the following day. On the 30th he had his review and answers ready for me. I have never partnered before, and I can’t tell you how happy that I have with Bob for I think that between us we can create a good novel. (photo © Robert S. Goodman & Louis Kraft 2014)

To do this I’m approaching it as if it were a thriller. That means that I must make the pages turn and hopefully prevent our readers from going to bed at night. For this type of writing to work, really work, and capture a reader’s imagination it must have a voice. To do this I’m using an approach I’ve never done before: I’m writing as I read and mark-up Bob’s text. Before each time I meet with Bob to discuss status, I read my current draft and edit and rewrite it. The early chapters have been rewritten twice and the latter chapters once to date. This process will continue as I work my way through Bob’s manuscript. On May 28 Bob and I met for the second time to discuss the manuscript’s current status and to ensure that we are in agreement on how I’m proceeding and re-imagining his characters and plot. Currently my draft of The Discovery is 236 pages, and there’s still a long ways to go before I have a completed first draft. But trust me for my goal is doable and will happen.

Sand Creek and the Tragic End of a Lifeway
As stated above work is ongoing on Sand Creek and the Tragic End of a Lifeway, and the month of May has seen the best research and writing to date.

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OU Press Editor-in-Chief Chuck Rankin at the 2012 Western Heritage Wrangler awards in Oklahoma City. Chuck has always been there for me, and over the years he has had the patience to listen to me. He has taken the time to discuss matters in which we don’t agree and has given me the room to experiment and grow. Ned Wynkoop and the Lonely Road from Sand Creek was the runner up this year. (photo © Ownbey Photography 2012)

And, like The Discovery, the story is character-driven, and as such I’m approaching the writing as much as possible as if the story is a thriller. Obviously the writing can’t be totally that of a thriller, but the goal is again to not put the readers to sleep. Although this has been ongoing for a while a good portion of the text doesn’t reflect this yet. The reason is simple. Facts must be in place and hopefully as close as possible to what actually happened. If facts must be deleted or fixed there is no point in rewriting them until they are as close to truth as I can make them.

Fingers are crossed that the upcoming time spent digging through the George Bird Grinnell Papers at the Braun Research Library will prove to be a goldmine for my Cheyenne research.

**********

I hope the above provides an update to my writing progress and gives you at least a hint of my creative world. …  There is only one constant in my life and that is Pailin. She is my life, and as a good friend of mine named Veronica Von Bernath Morra in Massachusetts said, “Pailin is your muse.” She is, and as long as I do everything possible to ensure that our relationship thrives and grows my writing will continue to thrive in its “golden age.” Reality? I don’t know. Probable? Bet on it.

A publicity blurb

The August 2014 Wild West magazine will reach newsstands in early June.

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People often ask if I win all my battles with editors and art directors. The answer is, “No, I don’t.” I lost a big battle with the Wynkoop art, for the art director insisted that it could spread over two pages without affecting or destroying the reason why I created the painting. I fought to keep my art on one page but lost. I had the option to kill the article; yes, the anger directed at me was strong and hateful (and I had faced it in the past) but I didn’t want to do this and luckily production moved forward. I had given into what I knew would ruin the image I created, and unfortunately my previous 20+ years of design work proved correct. Egotistic incompetency would never survive in the software world (too much money is involved; for example, the cost of my documentation suite in the space world was $100 Gs). Wynkoop’s face is so close to the spine of the magazine that the curled brim of his hat is lost which destroys the effect of his dramatic gaze toward the Indian battle line. That’s life. There’s a big lesson here for me and believe me I will never forget it: The essence of the work is always more important than the money it can earn. Always. (art © Louis Kraft 2013)

Egotism aside, “Wynkoop’s Gamble to End War” is perhaps the best magazine article I’ve written. I pitched it to Greg Lalire in 2012, and he later pitched me on two short pieces for the August issue. I agreed as long as I could write what I wanted. “Must See, Must Read” is usually a plot summary of five films and five books. Greg agreed that I could deal with what the films and books meant to me. The other is ‘Wild West’s Top 10 List.” Usually this list is one column and less than a full top to bottom page. I counter pitched why Wynkoop was a major player during the 1860s Cheyenne wars, and he agreed to the idea. You know by now that I’m wordy. It’s two columns top to bottom of page and Greg needed to point to the Wynkoop/Gamble article to make it fit.

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.

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

Who says they don’t raise cowgirls in Thailand & other stories of Sand Creek
Posted December 29 2013

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

LK has no training as a writer, historian, artist, or as a technical writer (I do have a lot of training as an actor). Everything is self-taught. This is not an excuse, for the bottom line is the work. If decent, it will survive; if crap, it will most likely vanish into oblivion.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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La Fonda as it appeared in 1927.

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

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

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LK at work, … and more. This image was taken on 13dec2013, and it shows key pieces of the LK life. First and foremost, it shows me at work moving about what I call my computer room (it could be called a library as there are three book cases and lots of cabinet storage). I spend a lot of time in this room but I’m not glued to the computers. Often I’m up and roaming the room and house, for this is how I work. And I do talk to myself; I have great conversations and they do influence what I write. There’s also something I wanted to share w/this image—actually two things. I chose this image for it shows red below my eyes (about the 5th or 6th day in the continuous cycle of attacks that I’ve had since mid-November. Shots, cream ($259.00 for 30g), nine days of medications, has each time ended the problem which always begins with me looking like I just lost a title bout with Muhammad Ali in his prime. After a treatment I look normal for a day or two, only to again be attacked. The red under the eyes that you see is not from lack of sleep as I’m been sleeping like a baby for the first time since the early 2000s. In 2003 a neurologist told me I’d not walk again. F—him, for I’m still walking. Doctors couldn’t fix this nerve problem, but cockiness aside, I think I have (perhaps in another blog). Originally I considered using another image as it showed my wandering the house and talking to myself. Certainly it showed the redness better, but I liked the cockiness in this image. LK likes to be cocky. (photo © Louis Kraft 2013))

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Until now.

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

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

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

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

Back in June I invited four people that I knew to a dinner party at Tujunga House. One of them, Naphis Sukumarabandhu, felt sorry for me as I hadn’t gone out on a date since a relationship ended in 2011. She asked if she could bring a friend to the gathering. At first I said “no,” but she refused to accept this until I said “okay.” The lady she invited also said “no,” but then finally decided to come.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

For roughly 2 ½ months you couldn’t walk in Tujunga House as it had been a minefield of disaster as Pailin and I worked to make the house livable and ours, and yes, she now lives at Tujunga House. As the holidays approached I had to relocate the still incomplete Memoir and Sand Creek research. These 2 ½ months have played hell on my writing output, but they have been heaven with Pailin. … Good friend Vee (mentioned above) from that frozen land on the East Coast (we met during our college years) and Saul (a theatre major w/me at CSUN who became a film editor) visited on December 12th. The house had to be presentable as we didn’t want anyone falling over piles of books or research or goodies that had not yet gone to Vietnam Vets (I’m their best supplier), and Pailin & I made it. What a great day and evening we had with Vee & Saul.

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Pailin & LK on 26dec2013 when two good friends, Pete & Nina Senoff, visited for dinner. We had celebrated Christmas on the 25th. It was just us, quiet and peaceful. On the 26th it was also peaceful, but with the added pleasure of two friends present. Good talk, joking, and friendship, … not to mention the LK-traditional turkey and Thai cuisine to die for. (image © Pailin Subanna & Louis Kraft 2013)

Days later, on 26dec2013, two great SoCal friends, Nina and Pete Senoff, visited. Turkey & dressing + Thai food (spicy and mellow that Pailin and Nina created)—heaven. I’m talking about both Pailin’s & my time w/Nina & Pete and the dinner we shared. The meal? Alloy mark (delicious). … Enough said.

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

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

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

Errol Flynn, SWORDS, Ned Wynkoop, & of course Louis Kraft opinion

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


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

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

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

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

Swords & Mr. Flynn

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

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

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

Enter Ned Wynkoop

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Wynkoop w/interpreter Dick Curtis on the Pawnee Fork in Kansas in April 1867. Art by Theodore R. Davis and originally published in Harper’s Weekly. (art restoration by Louis Kraft and  © Louis Kraft 2009)

The words that Greg had sent me was pure bullshit, meaning that this so-called biography on Red Cloud was pure shit, for if the writer fucked this up, you can bet that the rest of his travesty would be just as bad.

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

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

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

Swords & Mr. Flynn … continued

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Oliver Reed

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

Richard
Chamberlain, a great actor

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

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

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

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

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

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Errol Flynn and Basil Rathbone dueling to the death on the beach in Captain Blood (based upon the first part of Rafael Sabatini’s great novel, Captain Blood: His Odyssey, 1922, and romantic illustrations by Howard Pyle and others in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Also, and as stated in the text, you don’t cut to the head with a sword that will only kill when you strike your opponent with the point of the blade. Rathbone’s Levasseur could have simply taken the slash to his shoulder while he thrust and gutted Flynn’s Blood; end of duel. (Louis Kraft personal  collection)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

An in-left field baseball comparison

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

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

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

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

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

Geronimo & Lt. Charles Gatewood together again + an EXPLOSION of opinion

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Geronimo: An American Legend

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A John Ford opinion

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

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

Why Gatewood & Geronimo?

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

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

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

Bro Glen Williams took this photo at the AHS in February 2012 (photo © Louis Kraft & Glen Williams 2012)

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

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

LK portrait for Lt. Charles Gatewood & His Apache Wars Memoir. (art © Louis Kraft 2004)

I wrote roughly two-thirds of the words in Lt. Charles Gatewood & His Apache Wars Memoir (2005). About a month and half before publication date, Mr. Big Shot (notice that I didn’t call him Mr. Big Shit) at the University of Nebraska Press decided to change credits, thinking correctly that I wouldn’t walk (as I could have due to the contract). Obviously my anger still seethes. So be it! Here are the facts, other than the U of NE Press formatting some of my words at the beginning of the book so that they appeared as if Gatewood wrote them, and even with the nasty contract crap at the midnight hour, this book is by far my best selling book (and I’m proud of it, even though I’ll never write another word for Nebraska). Actually, I love it when Gatewood gets great reviews for his writing skills. Without bragging, I hacked the hell out of the lieutenant’s passive text that included 100-word sentences and paragraphs that easily flowed over pages. A few years back my good friend Greg Lalire, editor at Wild West magazine, called me and said that Gatewood’s words in the Memoir didn’t match his words at the AHS. “Greg,” I said, “did you read the introduction to the Memoir, which makes it clear that I edited Gatewood’s passive words?” “I did! I forgot. Sorry,” Greg said. Ladies and gents, let’s put it this way. Charles Gatewood had a great story to tell; he just didn’t know how to do it. I helped him. BTW, I think this dust jacket is cool. Love it!

That land of snow they call Colorado

In April 2013 I spent 11 days in this falsely advertised wonderland of 300 days of sunshine (Colorado). During my last two trips to this sun-filled salesman’s pitch I’ve been snowed in.

If you want to see 300 days of sunshine, real 300 days of sunshine, visit SoCal. You want to see snow with no visibility, visit Colorado.

It wasn’t that many years ago that Colorado (read Denver), was a possible place for me to live. Colorado has great history (love it!), great people (love them), but 300 days of sunshine? Hell! You want the truth? I’ve got some ocean-front property in Arizona that I can sell to you at a reasonable price.

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

What is a talk?

LK speaking at the Festival of the West in Scottsdale, Az., on 19mar2005 (photo by Johnny D. Boggs and © Louis Kraft & Johnny D. Boggs 2005)

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

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

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

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

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

Mike gave me a thumbs up.

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

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

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

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

An approach to Errol Flynn & Olivia de Havilland’s acting + a quiz

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


Ladies and gents, this is an important blog in that it was supposed to share how I’ll write about Errol Flynn and Olivia de Havilland’s acting in Errol & Olivia. An intriguing thought, but alas, it isn’t about to happen, at least not in the way you expect. Why? Simply, it’s a touchy subject for me—what to share or not share. This blog will discuss some of my background while giving you a hint of how I’ll address their acting (and in Flynn’s case, his dueling). But that said and you frowning, read on for I think the following is important.


Some bitching … or should I call it free advertising?

AT&T U-verse, the scourge of the LA internet, struck again while I was prepping the Sand Creek and the Tragic End of a Lifeway blog (which was supposed to go live before this blog. Yep, dead in the water once again. I honestly don’ know how AT&T U-verse stays in business. Simply stating that they do not deliver the product that they advertise is an understatement of huge proportions.

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A ghostly LK image, for this is how I’ve felt for the last week and a half. I’ve been struggling with deadlines and a contract negotiation. I don’t need software/internet failures. If this B.S. happens again, a company is going to be fired. (art © Louis Kraft 2013)

Oops! Actually that is OOPS!!! This blog went live first. No fanfare and in totally incomplete first rough draft form. Someone even liked it (not me; you can take that one to the bank). I could have totally destroyed it, but too much work had already been given it, and I decided not to. Kudos, AT&T U-verse, for you have another notch to add to your bloody dagger. Or was it PressHarbor, which teams with WordPress, and is responsible for this website–blog, as they had just performed a software update. If yes, as Caesar said as he was being murdered in Shakespeare’s play (Julius Caesar), “Et tu, Brute.” This blog on Errol & Olivia was planned for next week. My apologies for this error (give thanks to that dastardly villain, AT&T U-verse, for their knives are bloody as they slaughter the mighty Caesar). They have become my Darth Vader. You’re getting a little more meat here than was originally intended (plus a free plug for AT&T U-verse). If AT&T U-verse crashes my internet connection after 5:00 PM Pacific Time, I’m dead in the water until the following morning between five and six. No Chrome, no Firefox, no Safari, no WordPress, oh, and that also includes no att.net (but who cares about att.net?), which all means one thing—no LK website/blog on my computers.
To help you feel better there will be a quiz at the end of this blog,
and it will be easy.

Another dueling quiz

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A publicity image of Errol and Olivia for Dodge City. Take a close look at Mr. Flynn’s mustache. It ‘taint the one he wore in the film.

I know, some of you are thinking oh hell!!!, not another dueling lesson. Alas, I’m sorry, but ’tis true. I like the blade and want to cross it with living flesh and blood. That means you. (Or perhaps one of the key people in my life—hope burns eternal.) If I can’t secure victims—oops, I meant to say “volunteers”—locally I need to expand my horizon for would-be heroes. Smile, for you are again presented with the opportunity to enjoy swinging a saber for an hour, an hour and a half, or however long it takes me to wear you out. ‘Tis fun; trust me.
I’m not joking about the time limit with the sword. Again, this is fun for
me. I’m good with the time however long it is. I’ll supply the water. If you want
more punch, you supply the vino (however, this isn’t recommended).
At least not until we set the blades down and enjoy each other’s company.

What I bring to the table

I think you need to know a little about me that relates to me being capable of writing Errol & Olivia. Obviously I write biographies, but more is required. I don’t want to drag this out with a lot of words, so we’ll use a few bullets:
  • I discovered Flynn and de Havilland’s films when a boy
  • Flynn’s acting and writing influenced my life
  • While a young teenager I studied fencing with Ralph Faulkner in Hollywood
    • This led to me learning saber and dueling competition in college
    • It eventually led to me learning “swashbuckling,” or stage combat, and choreographing duels and dueling on stage
  • In junior high school I began studying acting and performing
    • This continued in high school
    • In college I majored in acting and directing
  • For about 15 years after college I attempted to survive in the acting world
  • After quitting acting I have survived as a writer
  • When opportunity presented itself in 2002 I returned to the stage but only in plays I have written
  • I have a track record of bringing historical figures to life in print, on stage, and when speaking before an audience
I believe the above qualifies me to not only write about Mr. Flynn and Ms. de Havilland but to approach their lives during a very short period of time in a different and perhaps avant-garde manner. These words are key, for they provide a hint to how I’m writing Errol & Olivia. … And better, I’m going into detail and it’s going to be fun detail; fun and multi-leveled detail.

Some views you should hear

You also need to have a warning here, especially so since some of you may not read my Indian Wars blogs. I’m not pitching you, but I am alerting you to the fact that I don’t just pound out words based upon secondary books that may or may not be riddled with errors. This paragraph is important, for it informs you that I live with, walk with, and study my subjects until I know them. I don’t trust anyone. I must dig, dig, and then dig some more. What is the truth and what is B.S.? Let’s drop the politeness and use the word—there is a lot of bullshit published with no documentation, or worse, documentation that is little more than smoke and mirrors created only to fool the reading public. This is totally unacceptable, and writers that are guilty of doing this are little more than cretins or worse. … Maybe they should win a dueling lesson—crossed blades with deadly intent could be fun. (I’ve been sliced just below the right eye; I know the adrenaline rush and what the cut feels like.)

Flynn having fun with Alan Hale in Dodge City. Obviously I’m playing around while I decide how I want to deliver photos/art for the next four books. (art in progress © Louis Kraft 2013)

I’m not a knight in shining armor but I do research my subject matter in all ways possible. And this doesn’t include a week or two or a month or two at an archive. I’m talking about years and years of research. For example, for Errol & Olivia I have been researching them at the USC Warner Bros. Archives since the mid-1990s (and elsewhere). I haven’t finished this research. And yes, there have been interruptions, sometimes lengthy. That said, putting food on the table, paying bills, and having a life are also important. Research time is limited, not only by me surviving but also the USC WB Archives limited availability. Currently they are open to historians and college students three times a week from 10:00 AM until 4:30 PM except when they are closed. At the moment they have been closed since the last week of July until September. Also, and this is key, they usually have only six spots open for researchers, and these are by appointment. … Research, wherever it is happening, will continue up until the book is published.

In no way am I criticizing the USC WB Archives. It is a goldmine, and
over all these years the archivists have been so good to me. Everyone, …
everyone. Jonathon Auxier runs the archives now. I’ve known him for a
number of years. Not only has he gone out of his way to make my
research experience successful, he’s just a great person.
Charming, funny, bright, caring. The archives are lucky
they have him running the show, for I’m certain he
has helped many people find the information
they crave.

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Olivia and Flynn during the forrest banquet scene in The Adventures of Robin Hood. (art in progress © Louis Kraft 2013)

Not to worry, for I write as I research. Originally I had told a number of people that this blog would deal with Errol and Olivia’s acting. Unfortunately that was a false statement by me. My apologies, for I have realized that I can’t give away key elements to the book (even though it would only be related to say They Died With Their Boots On or Four’s a Crowd or The Private Lives of Elizabeth and Essex or Dodge City. These films will dominate the acting and writing in E&O. Certainly Santa Fe Trail is important as Flynn and his Livvie have moved to a new level in their relationship. The Adventures of Robin Hood is mandatory as it is key to their lives. Captain Blood introduced them, but they were little more than amateurs at this time. Captain Blood is important for the raw emotions that are captured on screen (ditto Robin Hood). The Charge of the Light Brigade is an exceptional film in that it not only clearly documents their giant steps forward as actors (especially Flynn) but it also continues/cements a relationship that is fragile. Trust me, Errol Flynn and Olivia de Havilland became attracted to each other from the moment they met during the casting of Captain Blood. No matter what happened or the directions their lives would take, they would remain connected regardless of the problems they had with each other over time.

Swordsmen just wanna have fun. … and nothing is sacred. (art in progress © Louis Kraft 2013)

I’m sorry for not talking about their acting in one of their films but this seemed to be wrong at this time. I want to keep your interest, I need to keep your interest, but I can’t give the book away. One thing is certain—who they were and how they felt influenced their performances on screen. I will view their acting from a multitude of layers, which includes their growth as actors (and both did grow on film), as well as raw emotions that at times were captured by the cinematographer. Regardless of what happened with their real-life relationship, they were always drawn to each other. The sexual desire was always present, regardless of the hurt or anger in their lives. This led to friendship, and this eventually gave them their best performances as an acting duo. I will discuss their acting using my acting background. Ditto Mr. Flynn and his handling of a sword. This will be a book of their life and times, but it will also be a history of their times and that includes their films and their acting in their eight films together. What I share will be lively. One final note, Errol & Olivia will be different from any book you have ever read about Mr. Flynn or Ms. de Havilland. It will change your thinking about them.

Now for your quiz

This is a two-part question that deals with Errol Flynn’s swashbuckling films (TV performances don’t count here). He made eight of them. 1) Name them, the year they were released, and the characters Flynn played. 2) He made another film that could have been a swashbuckler. Certainly he swung a blade on camera. Name this film, its year of release, and whom Flynn played in it. Like I said, easy. Email me with your answers. Remember, you’ll have to live locally or travel to cross blades with me. There is no rush to collect your winnings, for there is no time limit (other than me continuing to walk this earth and swing a sword).

A stressed Louis Kraft

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


I thought that three things kept my life in balance: writing, friends, and the ladies in my life (currently only my daughter). This, as it turns out, isn’t true, for there is a fourth piece to my life—my computers and how well they perform with programs (Microsoft’s Word, Adobe’s Photoshop, and WordPress’s website/blog template are the three I use the most). I depend upon the internet and the phone to land work and deliver work. The website/blog (along w/my buddy the internet) will hopefully become my best selling tool. But I never say “never.” … What does that mean? Yikes!!!! Maybe below I’ll explain, but then again, maybe not.

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May 30, 2013. The face of total frustration, as I live with and test the total shutdown of this website/blog when I changed internet providers (the land phone hasn’t been performing with raves either). Yesterday (June 3) I had a very good 2½ hour session with a bright engineer from the East Coast named Wensor as we kicked ideas back and forth on what could be the problem. A lot of testing and a lot of failure for the first 1½ hours, but perhaps success. All tests closing out of programs, shutting down the computer, restarting it, and most important getting to the website/blog and being able to log in at the end of our meeting succeeded (kudos to Wensor of AT&T). He and I’ll again talk today after I do more tests … but first I wanted to do a blog in case we had just entered a short safe time zone of false hope. (Art © Louis Kraft 2013)

The last week of May has been hell—pure and simple hell—and it has continued into the first week of June. A learning experience with patience (trust me, I’ve improved with this over the years).

I’m not going to bore you with the problems—which have been ongoing—of changing internet and land line providers, but this has drastically impacted my work. Research for Flynn/de Havilland and Sand Creek as well as emails with editors have continued during these dark days that began on May 24 (no writing except for four-five hours on a Geronimo article), for the rest of my time has been spent trouble-shooting internet/phone/computer problems and working with my new provider. Enough said!!!

In the previous blog I posted an image of Errol Flynn that I’m working on. It isn’t complete, as I’m juggling artwork projects. I’m behind on some promised Ned Wynkoop images, and I need a Geronimo piece to accompany that article submission. Two bottom lines here: I like submitting artwork for articles and books as they can provide an image that supports the text (an image that doesn’t exist or isn’t obtainable); and they bring in additional money. I’m not big on money, but I like eating.

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This Ned Wynkoop image first appeared in an anthology that printed a Wynkoop article of mine, “Ned Wynkoop’s Lonely Walk Between the Races” (2008). It has since appeared in Wild West, True West, and has just appeared in Symphony in the Flint Hills Field Journal, Volume V (2013), that accompanies the orchestra’s concert, which happens each summer at historical sites in Kansas. This year they are featuring classic western film scores at Fort Riley. I had an open invite to the concert, but unfortunately couldn’t land a speaking gig in Kansas at that time, so I won’t be there. BTW, this is a terrific book; well designed, nice range of articles with a wide selection of photos and artwork. I was pleasantly surprised. (Art © Louis Kraft 2007)

Pardon the bragging, but my floppy-hat Wynkoop portrait sees print for the fourth time this month in a book dealing with a live concert in Kansas this summer. This isn’t ego, for it gives me the chance to invite friends over for dinner, to see a play, to walk in the park with a friend, to pay a bill.

Believe it or not (and no this isn’t a Ripley’s “Believe It or Not” cartoon from the Dark Ages), … I have at times been pounded for using art I created in my books and magazine articles, and worse I’ve been pounded for being an actor (in days long gone—I only appear now when I write the script). You see actors can’t be historians. This came with the Custer book, and for years after I hid my past life in a closet. Editors and publishing houses had no clue I had been an actor. After I came out of the closet and began acting onstage again (to repeat myself, only in scripts that I write), I decided to hell with hiding a past I had no problem remembering. It’s out in the open; now I get pounded for artwork and not acting. Go figure.

Ouch! I’ve probably put a curse on myself. Most likely the image of Ned Wynkoop in Sand Creek and the Tragic End of a Lifeway will be of him riding a horse. Ladies and gents, this image doesn’t exist. If I’m going to use it I’m going to have to create it. I’ve begun illustrations of him in Indian Territory in November 1868 surrounded by snow and another of him on the parade ground at Fort Larned, Kansas (I don’t think much of either of them). Actually, the Wynkoop/horse image is under way, but alas, in a very early stage of development. Slow progress and actually these images may not be shared until they are published (or at least in a presentable view as was the Flynn/Custer image from the last blog).

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April 2013 view from the front porch of Vicki and Layton Hooper’s home in Fort Collins, Co. I am beginning to believe that I am the “Snowman of Colorado.” When Governor Hickenlooper needs more snow, all he has to do is call up ol’ Kraft, pay a decent salary, all expenses, and I’ll be on my way. I’ve already created a snow dance that guarantees success. Why wait for Halloween to begin the Christmas season? Why not July 4th? I can guarantee days upon days of the white stuff obliterating the sun. I’m not mean, … I’m just having fun, justifiable fun for being snowed in the last two times I’ve visited Colorado. Hell, the “gov” likes the Wynkoop book; that makes him a pal. (Photo © Louis Kraft 2013)

I had planned this blog to deal w/my thrilling time last April in the land of 300 days of sunshine—Colorado … dealing with people, my favorite subject. The above problem (internet/website) again ruled yesterday and will do so again this day, I walked away from my planned subject even though images and artwork were ready. … That said, and in a totally unexpected transition from what I’ve been talking about, I may enter that coolest of zones, that place from which I thought I had walked away from—a place that forever excites me for the challenges are huge, the environment a maze of electricitya world in which I’m at home. What?? Good interview yesterday. I never hold my breath, … we’ll see.

Is Kraft fickle? I’ll never tell, … but I do like to tease.

Geronimo, Sand Creek, Mike Koury, & challenging me

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


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

“A little bite.” …  

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Vagueness is heaven. Sorry.

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

Trust me on this one.