The Tom Eubanks, Louis Kraft, Ned Wynkoop, & Errol Flynn connection

Website & blogs © Louis Kraft 2013-2020

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


I want to say upfront that my friend Tom Eubanks is the most talented person that I’ve ever known. Moreover, he has unlimited focus and energy to bring all his projects to fruition. He’s a terrific friend and to date my only director since I quit working in theater/film/TV/commercials etc. in the mid-1980s.

This blog deals with our initial literary connection, theatrical relationship,
and to where it hopefully leads us next.

Enter Tom Eubanks stage right

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Although this image of LK dates to later than 1990, it pretty much represents my clean-cut look at that time when I wasn’t wearing boots and wide-brimmed hats. George Carmichael took this image on a beach in northern San Diego County. (photo © Louis Kraft 2001)

In spring 1990 my then wife and I bought a terrific house in Thousand Oaks, California (in Ventura County, the county north of Los Angeles).

At that time I had been selling magazine articles and giving talks mostly about race relations and the Cheyenne Indian wars of the 1860s but also baseball (current and history). I also wrote for a telecommunications software company.

Even though I freelanced nonfiction I studied fiction at UCLA at night taught by a visiting professional. … I met George Carmichael at UCLA. He was a retired aerospace engineer who sold magazine articles and had an unending curiosity in the world. We remained close friends until his death on 2apr2014. After the class ended George and I continued to study with the UCLA writer at her Westwood office/home. As at UCLA, she oversaw the discussions and critiqued the work.

Actually, some of the wanna-be novelists at this time seemed to be from other planets (but not George). One of the Westwood writers was drafting a story about Jesus Christ, who was the quarterback of a high school football team. He was serious. … How do you keep a straight face while frantically trying to figure out how to say something constructive? Not easy to do.

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The Thousand Oaks house played a role in the publicity for The Final Showdown (see below).

After the move to Thousand Oaks a novelist that I no longer associate with suggested that I become a member of the Ventura County Writers Club and join one of the fiction groups of five, six, or seven that met weekly. I did. At these meetings the writers read from their current project and their peers reviewed their words—sometimes with insight but more often than not with chatter that was useless. Sometimes this was difficult to do, for way too often the people in these groups were not professional and never would be (and this included most of the would-be writers that I had seen at UCLA and Westwood). That said, there were some talented people present and they knew how to review constructively.

It was at these Ventura County writer meetings that I met Tom Eubanks. He was opinionated (and at first we didn’t connect), and it was shortly after I joined the group that I also learned of his theatrical training and interest.

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As I don’t have any photos of Tom that date to the 1990s I decided to use this image of him that I took on 13aug2016. (photo © Tom Eubanks & Louis Kraft 2016)

I believe that at this time he had already directed a number of stage productions. One night our words crossed swords over a play that he directed (and I think that he liked), The Owl and the Pussycat. Some years back I had been assigned to work on it at the Melrose Theatre Company, a professional theater group in Hollywood that I became a member of in the 1970s. I didn’t like Bill Manhoff’s The Owl and the Pussycat. Most likely because I was probably the worst Felix ever. The play focused on Doris (the pussycat) and Felix (the owl), and had some great scenes but I never came close to connecting with the character. For me, he was a pure “nothing” (Barbra Streisand and George Segal played the roles in the 1970 film version; I’ve always liked Barbra’s singing and acting, but didn’t like this film). This was not a great beginning to a potential Eubanks-Kraft friendship.

A lady in the Ventura group read the opening chapter from her novel as her character watched the panorama of spectacle and debauchery in pre-history England as it unfolded on the plain below the tree from which she saw all that happened. When I asked her the name of her major character, she didn’t know what I was talking about. I rephrased the question: “Who was the person in the tree?” “An extra.” It was my turn to be confused. “What?” “She is nobody and doesn’t need a name,” came the reply. “But everything that happened in your story has been seen through her eyes. She reacted to what she saw and is the focus of the scene. So far she is your only character, and …” “No!” “Why?” “You’ll never see her again.” … This woman was beyond help.

Nevertheless, it didn’t take me long to realize that Tom was almost always right on with his comments. He had a quick wit, was funny, and always contributed constructive comments that could benefit the writer on the hot seat if she or he listened. Better yet, a friendship began to develop.

The Final Showdown

That same year of 1990 I attended a Western Writers of America (WWA) convention in Portland, Oregon (unfortunately I didn’t bring a camera to fully 95 percent of the first two-thirds of my life and there are few images. At that time I had a literary agent (not my first for earlier I had had three screenwriting agents, and the first one—Ed Menerth (1976-1982)—took me under his wing after I submitted a fictionalized screenplay based upon my surviving a harrowing summer of dinner theater in Lubbock, Texas, in 1976.

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A publicity photo from the Hayloft Dinner Theatre in 1976. I was  performing in the generation-gap What Did We Do Wrong in the evenings while rehearsing Eat Your Heart Out during the days (and this photo is from one of the daytime rehearsals), which was about an actor who waited tables while struggling to survive in Hollywood. That’s Robin LaValley, an LA actress in the background. I don’t remember if the leaping onto the chair was in the script or not but it was always a balancing act. This was one of at least two plays wherein I dueled with imaginary swords on stage. … With luck, one more time. (photo © Louis Kraft 1976)

Actually, I was lucky to get out of the Lone Star State without being tarred and feathered, or worse (I had lived and worked with racism and violence in Texas and Oklahoma in 1970 but the 1976 racism was worse).

Back to the 1990 WWA convention. One late night that June my then agent Cherry Weiner, Walker and Company editor Jackie Johnson, I sat in the Oregon hotel lobby sipping drinks and chatting.

I pitched a story that took place during the lead-up to the Medicine Lodge Peace Council in 1867 Kansas, the council, and the aftermath. While most of the characters actually lived (Cheyennes Black Kettle, Stone Forehead, and Bull Bear; Kiowa Satanta; reporter Henry Morton Stanley; Captain Albert Barnitz (Seventh U.S. Cavalry); and Indian agent Ned Wynkoop; the three leads were fictional. It had action, was romantic, and it dealt with Cheyenne-white race relations.

Two or three months later my agent called me. “Have you drafted three chapters?”

“What are you talking about?”

“The story that you pitched Jackie Johnson. She wants to see three chapters.”

Sometimes I’ve got a few screws loose in my brain. “I didn’t realize that she was interested.”

“She is. Get on it!”

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LK and editor Jackie Johnson chatting at the 1991 Western Writers of America convention. (photo © Louis Kraft 1991)

It took me a couple of months to draft the requested chapters, and as I wrote I presented at the weekly meetings of the fiction group. Tom, and others, helped me immensely. I received a contract on those three chapters.

The lead players in The Final Showdown

I based the three fictional leads on real people. Ex-soldier Ned Morgan, who had been at the 1864 Sand Creek Massacre in Colorado Territory, was based on Wynkoop* (while never calling the real Wynkoop “Ned” and referring to him as “The Tall Chief Wynkoop,” which I steer clear of in my nonfiction writing); I used the famed Northern Cheyenne war leader Roman Nose as an inspiration for The Wolf’s Head; and a lady friend I once knew for Elsa Wells (she read and liked the book, but never realized that I had pulled from her inner being to create Elsa). … Here’s a warning to my lady friends: Be careful with what you share with me as you might become inspiration for one of my fictional female characters, and often they are on the adventurous side.

* The real Wynkoop was not at the Sand Creek Massacre.

This placed Tom front and center with Wynkoop from almost the beginning as I moved between various media time and again as I struggled to figure out who he was. Tom would eventually see some of my articles about the soldier turned Indian agent but never heard any of my talks that dealt with him.

25feb13_finalShowdown300By fall 1991 The Final Showdown was at the publisher’s in New York City. Everything should have been good.

Unfortunately it wasn’t for my marriage was limping toward its end. My time in Thousand Oaks ended a month or two before the divorce was final in early April 1992, and it marked the beginning of the end of my membership with the Ventura writing group. When I moved my belongings to an apartment in Tarzana, a town in the San Fernando Valley (Los Angeles city and county), Tom Eubanks played a major role in getting my handful of belongings back to LA and safety.

Instead of this disaster marking the end of my friendship with Tom, it marked the beginning.

Before the divorce was final the publisher had submitted the book to the Thousand Oaks News Chronicle, and a staff writer called me at Infonet (now British Telecom Infonet) in El Segundo, California, to interview me. He wanted to come to the Thousand Oaks house. I told him that I worked as a technical writer in the South Bay, which is south of Los Angeles International Airport (LAX), and that I had a two-hour drive each way (all true), and that I’d prefer a phone interview. He was good with this, called back twice, and we spoke for perhaps three hours.

Before hanging up the last time we spoke the reporter told me that a photographer would visit me at my home. “Why does it have to be at my home?” I asked. “You must live in Ventura County; if you don’t, there won’t be an article,” he snapped. “Do you live in Ventura County?” “Of course!” I gave him my former address and we set a time for the photo shoot the following Saturday.

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LK in the courtyard entry to the Thousand Oaks house in April 1992. Photo used by permission of the Thousand Oaks News Chronicle.

I called my ex-wife, explained the situation, and asked if the paper’s photographer could take photos at the Thousand Oaks house. “Yes,” she said, “as long as you don’t come inside.”

When the photographer arrived at my former home I met him in the front yard. After leading him into the courtyard and suggesting an archway opening that I thought would make a great photo, he agreed, set up his lights, and snapped away. He then suggested that we go inside and shoot photos of me at my computer. (Oh horror or horrors!) “That’s a terrible idea,” I said (yes, I did prep for what I could not let happen). “Why?” “Do you take photos of all the authors your paper writes about sitting at their computers?” “Yes.” “Well, damn, by now that is cliché.” He agreed and I began to breathe again.

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The cover page for the Thousand Oaks News Chronicle “Variety” section. LK is sitting near the top of the hill to the west of the 101 Freeway. This is the image that saved the interview.

I suggested a hill on the west side of the California 101 Freeway after exiting at Lynn Road. He agreed, we drove to the hill, climbed it, and luckily we got the images he needed. … I later called my ex-wife and thanked her, and that call was from my heart.

Tom’s Plays and the passage of time

As said above, my move to Tarzana ended my days as a member of the Ventura County writers group as it was just too far to drive, and especially as my days at Infonet began at 6:00 AM. Of great importance my relationship with Tom didn’t end. He began inviting me to see his plays at the Ohai Art Center Theatre in the Ohai Valley (Ventura County, Calif.), and our friendship grew. He had a wide range of plays that he directed, from the famous (such as Equis) to the not-so-famous (can’t think of an example) to plays he wrote. Yes, Tom is a terrific writer; fiction and plays, and over the years the number of plays that he has written has grown considerably. I’ve seen a lot of them, and they are damned good. I’ve not asked, but I hope that other directors have staged some of his plays.

I met Tom’s wife, Judy, in those wild early years of the 1990s and from the moment that we first met I’ve always enjoyed spending time with her. Tom has three daughters, Cassie, Alex, and Hannah (who’ve I’ve known since she was an infant). … I have more to say about Tom, for not only is he a bright fellow who does a great job of bringing his writing and plays to fruition, he’s open, friendly, generous, and funny with a very quick wit, but probably best of all he is a wonderful husband and father. Judy and his daughters are lucky to have him.

The years passed and I enjoyed our friendship at his home in Casitas Springs and at Tujunga House (which became my home in January 1993).

A trip to Yuma & its importance

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Cover art © Louis Kraft 1999)

I’ve been to Yuma, Arizona, twice, and this section deals with the first trip.

In 2000 Gatewood & Geronimo was published, and I delivered a number of talks. One was in Yuma.

All I can say about this place is that it’s hotter than Hell during the summer months. On this first trip I spoke about 1st Lieutenant Charles Gatewood finding Geronimo in Mexico and talking him, Naiche, the last hereditary Chiricahua Apache chief, and the people with them into ending the last Apache war. The book had just been published and the two maps were an assembly of dots and totally useless. I was told that in the blue line the maps were fine. I replied that this was bullshit (I had seen too many blue lines to doubt my view sight unseen), and I must have been correct for the publisher recalled all the books (and it had been printed in hardback and paper at the same time; a costly mistake). BTW, I never saw this blue line until years later when it was sent to me, and it proved that I was right in 2000—the maps were a disaster and no one at the press had checked the blue line. I quickly forwarded it to the Louis Kraft Collection in Santa Fe, New Mexico, but I don’t know if the archive kept it or trashed it (hopefully the former).

I had been thinking about writing a one-man play and had already outlined one on George Armstrong Custer. But during the drive home from the talk in Yuma I began thinking about Ned Wynkoop, who had gone from being a racist to someone who accepted Cheyenne and Arapaho people as human beings. Ladies & gents, I hate to say it but this is still a major problem in the USA 150+ years after Wynkoop decided to live by his conscience and damn all who disagreed with his choice.

For the record this is my choice. A good person is a good person, and I don’t
give a bleep what his or her color is, where they were
born, or what their race or
religion is. We are all human
beings living on earth by the grace of God.

This didn’t happen until Wynkoop, as a major in the First Colorado Volunteer Cavalry, attempted to end the 1864 Cheyenne war when he without orders and at great risk to himself and his men, rode to a tributary of the Smoky Hill River in Kansas to discuss ending the war with Cheyennes and Arapahos.

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While traveling to the still unseen Cheyenne and Arapaho village on a tributary of the Smoky Hill in western Kansas Wynkoop’s small command was confronted by a battle line of perhaps 700 Cheyenne and Arapaho warriors on 10sept1864. Original art © Louis Kraft 2015, and first published in “Wynkoop’s Gamble to End War,” August 2015 Wild West magazine.

As stated in the image caption above Wynkoop was confronted by a battle line. No violence happened at the confrontation and later that day he met in council with Cheyenne and Arapaho chiefs in a grove of trees (he never saw the huge village of 2,000 people). Although threatened and at times in a desperate situation he would eventually receive four children prisoners and was able to talk seven Indian leaders into traveling with him to Denver, Colorado Territory, to discuss ending the war with Territorial Governor John Evans (the council eventually took place at Camp Weld, just south of Denver).

Wynkoop and the Indian leaders thought that peace had come to the land. They were wrong. Wynkoop was removed from command at Fort Lyon (Colorado Territory), and Cheyenne Chief Black Kettle and Arapaho Chief Left Hand moved their villages from the post and to Sand Creek, about 40 miles to the northeast. Wynkoop traveled to Kansas, where he expected to be cashiered out of the military for being absent from his post in time of war (without orders he met the Indians on the Smoky Hill and brought them to Denver). Three days after Wynkoop set out for Kansas Colorado Volunteers attacked Black Kettle and Left Hand’s villages—villages that thought that they were under the protection of the U.S. military until it decided to end or continue the war.

What happened on that tragic November 29, 1864, day rips me apart every time I think about it.

On that drive home from Yuma I conceived a one-man play on Wynkoop and the Sand Creek tragedy. I called Leo Oliva, a Kansas historian and friend who played a major role in the Fort Larned Old Guard, an organization that deals with the history of the Fort Larned National Historic Site (NHS), and pitched the idea. For years Leo had been instrumental in bringing me to Kansas, and nothing had changed. He loved the proposal and said, “How about next April.” Although thrilled I had to say, “No,” as I didn’t have an outline, a play, or a director. “How about April 2002?” I offered. … It was a go.

I pitched the idea to Tom and he liked it.

Wynkoop one-man shows in Kansas, California, Colorado, and Oklahoma

As said above not many photos were taken but by the early 2000s a change was a comin’.

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The image I sent Leo Oliva. (photo © Louis Kraft 2001)

Taking a one-man show on the road is not a cup of tea; it is 14-or-more-hour days as a set needs to be created, lights need to be set, and technical rehearsals need to happen. If anything can go wrong, I guarantee that it will.

As 2001 neared its end Leo Oliva requested a publicity photo of me as Wynkoop. This was impossible as the hat and costume were still being made. However, that November I spent some time in Nevada and had some photos taken at the Valley of Fire State Park, northeast of Las Vegas.

I printed it and sent it to Leo, and it was subsequently printed on the cover of the Fort Larned Old Guard newsletter, Outpost, promoting An Evening with Ned Wynkoop.

Of course it garnered me a complaint from California historian Eric Niderost. “Wynkoop didn’t dress like that!!!” he snarled.

“No shit, Sherlock!” Publicity with a photo is always better than publicity without a photo.

As soon as I had the costume (a wife of a former superintendent of Fort Larned created it for me) and hat I took some photos at Tujunga House and sent them to Leo Olvia, but I don’t believe any were used in the publicity.

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I’ve always liked this image that was taken in front of a shed that no longer exists at Tujunga House. Baron Hats (Burbank, Calif.) made the hat for me (it is based upon the hat that Wynkoop wore in a 1867 woodcut that appeared in Harper’s Weekly in May of that year). They make a lot of the hats used in films, and since this hat they have made all of my hats. I didn’t include this image in the package that I had sent to Leo Oliva. (photo © Louis Kraft 2002)

Kansas

I first traveled to Fort Larned, Kansas, in 1990 for The Final Showdown research. On that trip I met (now) chief historian George Elmore, who has been my friend since we met. I can’t begin to tell you how much he has done to help my Indian wars writing over the years.

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I think that this picture is the only photo I have of George Elmore (right), Leo Olvia (left) and me together. We are walking on the Fort Larned parade ground. The photo, by National Park Service ranger Ellen Jones, dates to the morning of 28apr2012 when I was a banquet speaker at the annual Fort Larned Old Guard conference.

For the record I don’t get stage fright (acting or talks), and I guess that this comes with the number of performances and talks over the years. If true, the talks, which have been prepped are script-less, and by that I mean that although I know what I’m going to talk about I don’t memorize while at the same time I work at getting a flow to the talk (the only things I memorize, that is try to memorize, are quotes). Glitches happen, and over the years I’ve learned how to deal with them as best as possible.

But the one-man show would be different. Both Tom’s and my ass were on the line. If the worst happened I’d be standing alone on stage while Tom ran for the closest exit. Luckily this scenario has never happened as each time Tom has pulled off a miracle: Getting a set built, lights set, and when people volunteered or were assigned to run lights and sound weren’t technical and were placed in a difficult situation he coached them until they were able to pull off the impossible.

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LK enjoying Fort Larned while dressed as Ned Wynkoop in early May 2002. (photo © Louis Kraft 2002)

The day before Tom arrived I dressed in the Wynkoop costume and my then girlfriend and I hung out at the fort (doing a little living history) and took a series of publicity photos.

The city of Larned had a huge and first class proscenium theater (it seated at least 2000), but although we requested skilled light and sound technicians we were given two people—kind and giving ladies—that were clueless. Read long-long hours (from roughly eight each morning until after midnight) of getting the lights angled and set, and after learning how to run the complicated light and sound board Tom had to teach the ladies how to perform their cues. … George, Leo, and a number of Fort Larned’s maintenance crew built platforms to Tom’s specifications, built a stool which also substituted as a horse, built a podium, and rounded up the requested log, desk, and chair, and delivered everything to the theater on the morning after Tom’s arrival.

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I had recently used a very tight cropping of this photo elsewhere on social media. The reception had been surprisingly good and I decided to use the uncropped image here to hopefully mellow my rambling. (photo © Louis Kraft 2002)

Pure hell for LK, for as the hours passed (I think that we had three days to pull it off), I didn’t have a technical or dress rehearsal. I was on the stage at all times, and basically functioning as my own stand-in. As showtime neared, and I didn’t have any rehearsal other than getting familiar with the set and mumbling my lines under my breath, only to again and again stand or sit in a specific location for technical issues.

My apologies for complaining
but Tom and I had put in a lot work in California just to get
ready to travel to Kansas. The time was short. Tom, with the generous
support of George Elmore, Leo Oliva, and others connected with Fort Larned,
pulled off nothing short of a miracle to create a set, angle lights (Tom), and set
the sound and light cues (Tom). From then on everything was related to the technical
end of getting the two volunteers to learn how to run the lights and sound.
I needed at least one complete rehearsal on the real set and
there hadn’t been any since arriving in Kansas.

I did have my dress rehearsal just hours before showtime.

I was miked as the show was presented in a huge auditorium. … During my only run-through of the play the mike fell from the costume and slid across the stage. The rehearsal continued without the mike while not missing a beat, but I was well aware of what could happen. Luckily when we had an audience everything went soothly on stage (and I presume in the sound and light booth).

California

Soon after we were both back in California (I had driven while he had flown to Kansas) Tom asked if I’d like to take Wynkoop to Ohai. You bet, for I had always wanted to act on the Ohai Art Center Theatre stage.

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This photo of LK as Wynkoop sitting at his desk was taken at the Ojai Art Center Theatre by the Ojai Valley News in May 2002, and is used by permission.

Tom, who was the artistic director, slipped An Evening with Ned Wynkoop between major productions. He used an incomplete set (partially seen in the above photo) and had platforms built to his set-design specifications. As in Kansas a log represented an Indian village, a podium New York City, and so on. Again we had proscenium stage but much more actor friendly (120 seats, 150 seats?). Much more intimate, which I prefer. An Evening with Ned Wynkoop played in Ojai in June 2002.

Colorado

Next up was Colorado, and I rewrote the play—now called Ned Wynkoop: A Matter of Conscience—to focus a little more on the horrific 1864 attack on the Cheyenne-Arapaho village, a tragedy that has still not healed for these people. The former Colorado Historical Society* (CHS) had a huge auditorium and they guaranteed to fill all 400 seats.

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LK as Wynkoop seeing the remains of the Sand Creek dead for the first time months after the 29nov1864 butchery. Pal Johnny D. Boggs (a writer, editor, and photographer) took this image at a December 2008 dress rehearsal in Oklahoma. I have no images from the performance in Colorado. I believe that it was in Colorado when Tom lit this scene in red for the first time. … At the end of the Sand Creek scene I knelt down at stage right as close as I could get to the audience to look at what was left of a Cheyenne girl and as Wynkoop said: “I couldn’t believe what I saw. This wasn’t the savagery of animals—what stared at me was the creativity of civilized man. This was the work of my compatriots, … of white men. … What I saw could have been Louise—could have been my children.” (LK: Louise was Wynkoop’s wife.)

Again, it would be another challenge taking the show on the road, but a friend, Anita Donotello, whom I had met in El Segundo, California, when I spoke at one of Dick Upton’s symposiums (miss them), volunteered to run the lights and sound. Doable as she had moved to Colorado. She was right there with us every step of the way; doing everything, including driving us everywhere and functioning as Tom’s go-to assistant. After the show ended and Tom flew home I stayed at her house for another week while I did Wynkoop research at the Society and at the Denver Public Library. As I had worked out a deal to remain in the terrific hotel room that the Society had provided Tom and me, I had some leverage with Anita. I told her that I’d gladly accept her invitation if she invited Indian wars historian Jerry Greene over for a dinner that I’d cook. I didn’t know Jerry, wanted to know him, and knew that they were friends. I got my way and the four of us, which included Anita’s son Nicholas, enjoyed our evening together.

Again I think that we had three days (but it might have been two) to create the set and deal with the technical aspects. This trip wasn’t as frantic as Kansas as Robyn Jacobs, the CHS Adult Public Program Coordinator, was on top of everything (and she had a budget). She had even ordered metal frames to build a multi-leveled stage. Tom had come up with a great log to represent the Cheyenne village but an inspector or Society bigwig saw it and demanded that it go because of the threat of termites. I don’t know what Tom said, but the log stayed.

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Near the end of the play events in Wynkoop’s life began to haunt him when he was ordered to Indian Territory to collect his Indian wards at an area designated by the military. As he traveled through deep snow in November 1868 he sensed another massacre. Suddenly he thought he saw Isabelle Eubanks, a three-year old girl he received from the Cheyennes in 1864. He yanked the wagon to a halt and ran to comfort her, but couldn’t for she changed into the Cheyenne girl who had been raped again and again by soldiers at the Pawnee Fork in 1867 Kansas. … It couldn’t be, for both were dead. Alone, he needed to make a decision and allowed his conscience win out. Photo by Johnny D. Boggs in 2008.

Better, Tom and I had time to enjoy great breakfasts at the hotel, one lunch during our first day in town, and a great dinner after the show closed.

Sometime during our time in Denver I had proposed adding a scene for fun when Wynkoop, as the lead in The Drunkard (which garnered him great reviews in Denver), struggled trying not to take a drink at a climatic moment in the play. We rehearsed it and Anita (or Annie as Jerry calls her) was good with the last minute insertion. Both the technical rehearsal and the dress rehearsal went smoothly the morning of the performance. After notes Tom and I retired to our hotel room to relax.

Due to the low hanging lights that Tom had to use to light the stage I could see the audience. This wasn’t a problem as I couldn’t make out details, and even the faces of those in the first three rows were little more than blurs. This has always been a blessing for me and certainly has helped me keep my concentration, which is of major importance.

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I based this illustration on one of the photos that Johnny D. Boggs took of me in Oklahoma. … And, yes, it illustrates that moment when LK/Wynkoop took deadly aim at a CHS patron that was sitting at stage right because the Society decided not to turn away walk-ins on the night of the performance. Am not complaining, for I loved this audience. (art © Louis Kraft 2008)

The show ran smoothly and I had an absolute blast playing to 440 people (40 over the seating limit). Some of the overflow sat in the side aisles and the rest stage right, which was fine as I played to them too. One problem occurred when I yanked out the 1860 Army Colt and pointed it with deadly intent. Instead of aiming at an invisible enemy I now had a CHS patron in my line of fire. Oops! A quick jerk of the wrist and the revolver pointed upstage right. … For the record I swept right by the Wynkoop drunk scene without missing a beat. Afterwards Anita teased me, saying something like: “It’ll make the next show.” All I could do was shrug and agree. … It didn’t matter for I had had one hell of a good time.

Mike Koury (Order of the Indian Wars & The Old Army Press) has been a terrific friend since we both spoke at an Indian wars conference in SoCal in February 1987. He said he planned on seeing the show, and it was great seeing him afterwards.

Tom and I ate a great dinner at a restaurant on the walk back to the hotel (we passed the restaurant twice each day, and this dinner was planned). A good time as we chatted and enjoyed our food and drinks. I hated that the evening was coming to an end, but then I’ve always had good times with Mr. Eubanks.

* Sometime in late 2011 or 2012 the Colorado Historical Society became History Colorado and moved into a spectacular modern building a block away.

Oklahoma

A few years passed and I gave a talk about Ned Wynkoop and Cheyenne race relations at a 2007 Western History Association convention in Oklahoma City. The session was Indian wars-based and the three speakers enjoyed a standing-room only audience with another 12 or more people lining the back wall or struggling to listen and see from the doorway.

Afterwards, Dave Schafer, then chief of interpretation and operations for the Washita Battlefield National Historic Site, and his wife Valerie (who also worked for the Park Service) along with Richard Zahn and Drew Hughes (NPS rangers) in Oklahoma caught up with me after the session ended.

lk_te_BoggsPrayArt_websiteDave and the others liked the talk and wanted to know if I’d like to present at the Washita Battlefield. Of course I would, but as we walked my mind raced. I wanted the talk but I also wanted to do an updated version of the Wynkoop one-man show. I pitched both and Dave bought both. I’d perform Ned Wynkoop: Long Road to Washita on two days and talk about him on the last day of the festivities that marked the 140th anniversary of the battle that resulted in Cheyenne Chief Black Kettle and his wife Medicine Woman Later’s deaths on 27nov1868 when Lieutenant Colonel George Armstrong Custer and the Seventh U.S. Cavalry attacked and destroyed his village in what is now southwest Oklahoma.

The image (right) is based upon a photo that Johnny D. Boggs took during one of the final dress rehearsals for Ned Wynkoop: Long Road to Washita in December 2008. That’s director Tom Eubanks on his knees begging LK to remember his lines. I like this description but, alas, ’tis not true. He was discussing the prayer at the end of the play, and as you can see my nose was red. Yep, LK was doing some crying. Tom was showing me how I could improve the scene.

George Elmore kindly lent me an 1860-period revolver for the performances, and saved me the hassle of dealing with the airlines, which is no fun.

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Tom Eubanks (left) and LK going over Tom’s notes after one of the dress rehearsals in December 2008. Photo by Johnny D. Boggs.

Tom and I had two performances in a huge proscenium theater in the Cheyenne High School, and there were no problems for the school provided technicians that knew what they were doing.

A great time for me for I cemented my friendship with some Cheyennes, including Minowa lk_asnw_okdec08_sc1_boggsuse_wsLittlehawk (who would later become a godsend when she helped me with the Cheyenne words I used in Ned Wynkoop and the Lonely Road from Sand Creek, OU Press, 2011) and Dr. Henrietta Mann (one of the founders of the Cheyenne-Arapaho Tribal College in Weatherford, Oklahoma).

LK as Wynkoop (left) seeing the butchered remains of the Cheyenne and Arapaho people at Sand Creek months after the tragic event. It was evident that children were shot in the top of their heads, that sexual organs had been hacked off bodies for trophies, and, although Wynkoop probably did not see the body, a soldier had cut an unborn baby from its dead mother’s womb. This is my favorite image from the Johnny D. Boggs December 2008 photo shoot.

In the pictured scene (above) LK as Wynkoop described what he saw:
“Bodies littered the ground. All were at hideous angles, … naked, …
frozen in time. I dismounted and walked toward the carnage. … What I saw
ripped at my guts and I had to struggle not to vomit. Wolves had come
and feasted, but their hunger didn’t obscure what had come before.”
The performances went smoothly on the first two days of the event, but for me the final day turned into pure Cheyenne heaven (unfortunately Tom had to drive to Oklahoma City, to catch a flight back to SoCal before the second performance, which was in the evening). I met Henri (Dr. Mann) after the first performance, and after my talk in the morning on the last day of the event we spent a lot of time together, and it cemented a friendship to this day.

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Other friends attended the last day of the event, Cheyenne Ivan Hankla (a wonderful man who opened his heart to me, but unfortunately this would be the last time I would ever see him in person) and Kiowa James Coverdale. I had met both of them at a major Fort Larned event years before and we had kept a long-distance friendship over the years.

LK with Southern Cheyenne Ivan Hankla (left) and his nephew Jake in Ivan’s fully functional lodge during the last day of the Washita Battlefield NHS’s 140th anniversary of the destruction of Black Kettle’s Cheyenne village. … It’s been too long since I’ve visited the Washita Battlefield (the last time was in 2012 when I flew to Oklahoma City for the Wrangler Awards), and methinks I need to pitch a talk for 2017. (photo © Leroy Livesay 2008; note that before Leroy’s death on 21mar2014 he gave me full permission to use his photos)

Cheyenne Blood

Tom and I had discussed doing a play dealing with the same subject matter that we had used in the one-man shows by 2007 and perhaps a little earlier. I had come up with a script with a cast of 1000s but most of the characters would have been played by actors that would play multiple roles. It wasn’t very good and never had a second draft.

cheyBloodPosterTom came up with the idea of a two-character play, and this appealed to me. There had been two leading women in the initial draft: Louise Wynkoop and Monahsetah (photnetically pronounced “Mo-Nahs-e-Tah,” per my request of Dr. Henrietta Mann when we spent time together at the Washita in December 2008). By this time I knew that it would be a two-character play and It made sense to make the second character a Cheyenne (I think that we were both in agreement on this). Obviously Black Kettle would have been a good choice. Tom suggested Monahsetah, who was perhaps 17 in 1868. I liked the idea, mainly because there isn’t much known about her, and if George Armstrong Custer hadn’t been drawn to her when he viewed the captive Washita prisoners in 1868 she may have been lost to history. Due to her father’s closeness to Black Kettle, he (Cheyenne council chief Little Rock) and she often traveled with Black Kettle’s band and set up their village circle near his. As Little Rock and Wynkoop knew each other and seemed to get along, this meant that there was a good chance that Wynkoop knew her.

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Tanya Thomas as Monahsetah and LK as Wynkoop during the drinking bit from The Drunkard. Obviously Monahsetah never saw the play but Tom added her to the scene and her presence added to the audience’s enjoyment of the bit that was played for laughs. Photo by Dean Zatkowsky (2009).

Also, and this was important, for other than Monahsetah’s contribution to Custer’s peaceful roundup of still-warring Cheyennes in 1869 Texas she was, and still is, little more than a heavenly shadow that his heart-felt words brought to life when he wrote about her in the 1870s.* Her absence from the history that she lived through allowed us to have her present but watching from afar or simply just representing a Cheyenne woman when not actually performing as herself. As it worked out, audiences accepted Tanya Thomas’s performance as Monahsetah at all times.

* Custer’s My Life on the Plains is still in print, as is Elizabeth Bacon Custer’s Following the Guidon, in which she shares her view of the young Cheyenne woman who spent time with her husband in the field and who obviously liked him. For secondary books see LK’s Custer and the Cheyenne: George Armstrong Custer’s Winter Campaign on the Southern Plains (Upton and Sons, 1995) and Peter Harrison’s Monahsetah: The Life of a Custer Captive (The English Westerners Society, 2014). There is biography by a supposed relative called Princess Monahsetah: The Concealed Wife of General Custer (2008) that is little more than bad fiction and should be avoided.

I finally had a draft of Cheyenne Blood early in 2009, and rehearsals began in March at the Petit Playhouse in Heritage Square.

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A tense moment during the ride to Denver. Tanya Thomas as Monahsetah and LK as Ned Wynkoop react to what is going on around them. This did not happen in reality, however, the seven Cheyenne and Arapaho chiefs did ride in a wagon to Denver. Wynkoop was mounted on his horse during the September 1864 trip. Photo by Dean Zatkowsky (2009).

Cheyenne Blood was a difficult play to learn, and I should admit up front that I’m terrible at learning lines. During one of the rehearsals I couldn’t remember a line or two and ad libbed what Wynkoop would have said.

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LK as Wynkoop breaking the fourth wall and talking to the audience. The Petite Playhouse was intimate and I enjoyed this no end during the run of Cheyenne Blood. In the one-man shows we had also broken the fourth wall but here if I knelt down on the edge of the stage I could have touched a person in the audience. Photo by Dean Zatkowsky (2009).

Tom stopped the rehearsal and said: “You didn’t say the correct lines.” There was more, but not for your viewing pleasure. “What I just said are now the lines,” I said. “Huh?” he replied. “I just rewrote my script. Did you write the new words down?” Tom grumbled, and I looked at the script to put the lines back in my head so we could continue with the rehearsal. I think that Tanya silently enjoyed the exchange.

Actually Tom and I had many exchanges over lots of thoughts and views that had nothing to do with getting Cheyenne Blood ready for its premier. All fun and games as we toyed with each other with words, … and Tanya quietly chuckled. At one point she said something like: “You two are a hoot.”

It’s fun to work with people you like and trust.

Without a doubt Tanya Thomas is the best actress that I’ve ever been fortunate to act with on stage. This is a big compliment. I enjoyed every minute of the time that Tanya, Tom, and I spent together during the production.

The Elite Theatre Company’s new home

The Elite Theatre Company (ETC) moved from its original location at the intimate Petit Theatre in Heritage Square where it had been since its inception in 1994 to its new home at Oxnard’s Channel Islands Fisherman’s Wharf in 2013.

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The Elite Theatre Company’s art for the premier of The Art of Something.

Pailin meets Mr. Eubanks

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I took this image of Pailin and Tom before the final dress rehearsal for The Art of Something. (photo © Pailin Subanna-Kraft, Tom Eubanks, and Louis Kraft 2014)

Pailin and I made the drive to the Elite Theatre Company’s new home on 24apr2014. The theatre complex is housed in a two-story wooden Cape Cod-style building with two proscenium stages and is a joy to behold.

On this evening Pailin met Tom for the first time and obtained a first-hand introduction to the theater world that is in my blood and will be until the end. As a bonus she saw a play performed on stage for the first time in the USA. And best, I knew that it would a good experience for her since would see a story that Tom wrote and directed.

On the night of the final dress rehearsal for Tom’s The Art of Something at the new venue Pailin also met Tom’s wife Judy and daughter Hannah.

Since that first day and evening when I met Pailin at a dinner party at Tujunga House in June 2013 (it was supposed to be two couples and myself but one of the ladies pushed me to allow one of her friends to attend and then she pushed Pailin that she needed to make it a party of six) when she was quiet but totally attentive to what was going on around her, I have come to know that this is a major part of her inner being. … And it was the same when she saw The Art of Something on that night over two years ago but which still feels like last week.

Yes it had been a good night for Pailin when she met Tom and part of his family, but it had also been good for me to again hang out with him if only for a short while after a way-too-long passage of time.

“To be or not to be”* Wild Bill Hickok

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LK as Wild Bill Hickok. (art © Louis Kraft 2015)

I can’t remember when, but years back Johnny D. Boggs sent me his novel about Wild Bill Hickok joining Buffalo Bill Cody and Jack Omohundro on a theatrical tour of the East called East of the Border. Hickok quickly realized that acting wasn’t for him. Bored, he drank too much and allowed his disgust with the situation show. Eventually he realized that if he fired his revolver loaded with a blank too close to a dead Indian on the stage the extra playing the corpse jerked spasmodically while he screeched out in pain. This tickled Hickok’s fancy (I assume that this was Mr. Boggs’s invention) and continued to do it to the dismay of Buffalo Bill and the extras. … It tickled my fancy too—but then I guess I may have enjoyed knowing Mr. Hickok if given the chance—and I decided that I wanted play the scout-gunman-gambler on stage.

* Although I quoted William Shakespeare’s Hamlet (written in 1601 or 1602 and first performed in 1602) I’m not depressed or considering ending my life. Just the opposite, I’m thrilled to move into my future. … I’m just having a little fun with the Bard’s words at Wild Bill’s expense.

Now came the hard part; getting Johnny to buy in on his novel being turned into a play. I approached him on this numerous times over the years and he never replied. In 2012 when I attended a WWA convention in Albuquerque, New Mexico, I again approached Johnny. No reply, but Lisa Smith, his wife and my friend, said: “That’s a great idea.”

Of course I wanted Tom to direct East of the Border if Johnny had agreed to me writing a play based upon his book, but this was beginning to be little more than wishful thinking. Worse, Tom was also lukewarm to the idea until I gave him a couple of books when I saw a play that he had directed called Men of Tortuga at the Elite Theatre in May 2016 (one 38-minute scene with two actors—Ron Rezac and Adam Womack—sitting at a table was riveting and had me on the edge of my seat).

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LK as LK (or Wild Bill) relaxing at home in September 2015 (photo © Louis Kraft 2015)

To this point in time I still wanted to play Wild Bill Hickok on stage and thought that Johnny’s novel would be the perfect vehicle to bring my desire to fruition.

Back to the books that I gave Tom; one was Boggs’s East of the Border. Tom read it, called me, and we discussed what he thought needed to happen to make the novel work on stage (mainly condensing the story, removing the repetition, and focusing on three or four characters). This would have certainly been doable if Boggs would only buy into the idea.

Since Cheyenne Blood I’ve wanted to return to the stage, and thought it would be fun to play Hickok as he was burned out and certainly out of his element play-acting on stage. Alcoholism and a sadistic sense of fun would have made him a wonderful stretch for me.

After my phone conversation with Tom ended and I hung up I knew what I wanted to do … what I really wanted to do.

In the Midst of All that is Good

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The Elite Theatre Company’s art for the premier of In the Midst of All that is Good.

On Saturday 13aug2016 I saw a great play written by Tom Eubanks. I’ve seen a lot of the plays that he has directed or written and directed since 1990, but this one was special.

I had hoped to create this blog that dealt with Tom’s and my friendship, our working relationship, In the Midst of All that is Good, and Wild Bill Hickok before the play closed at the Elite Theatre on 21aug2016 to give it additional publicity. Good attempt by me, but there just wasn’t enough time as I also had to pound the midnight oil as I push to complete my manuscript, Sand Creek and the Tragic End of a Lifeway, which may be the most important book that I ever write (and this currently includes a great ongoing communication with Gary Roberts, who has written numerous books and documents about the tragedy), as well as deal with yet another operation (my nineteenth).

LK and Tom Eubanks at the Elite Theatre on the evening that I saw In the Midst of All that is Good. Obviously religion has played a large role in Tom’s life. Over the years he has prayed for me and I have for him. (photo © Louis Kraft & Tom Eubanks 2016)

 

 

Tom has written and directed a lot of plays that have been extraordinary, but this play is by far my favorite.

According to Tom (whose father, Sam Eubanks, is an evangelical pastor), he spent, “most of my early life planted in a pew.”

His early life started a spark that pushed him “to get a few things off my chest,” and write In the Midst of All that is Good. I think he told me that it took him a year to write and fine tune with comments from six friends that he mentioned by name in the program. I’m certain that after casting was set and rehearsals began that the play continued to evolve. I couldn’t take my eyes off Josh Carmichael, who was totally natural while at all times a threat to everyone else on stage as he raised questions and protected his livelihood. Jeff Ham also shined, as did David Fruechting, who was terribly sick during the performance that I saw and had been in the emergency room the previous night. If I hadn’t known, I would never have guessed. Hannah, Tom’s youngest daughter, played a key role in the play; she’s fifteen and was terrific, as was Alex Czajka, who as a young actor was totally believable as her deaf brother. Finally, Johnny Avila, as an almost flashback to the days of love-ins and hippies, reminded me of my brother’s best friend and our baseball teammate for 10 years until a mere flick of time ended Lee’s life in a flash.

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In the above photo: Josh Carmichael (Vic) points his gun at Jeff Ham (Reverend Bob) while his children Hannah Eubanks (Maddie) and Alex Czajka (Carson, who is deaf in the play) nervously react to the threat behind their father). David Fruechting (Lloyd, Reverend Bob’s disgraced and long-retired father) is about to jump Vic from behind. Johnny Avila (Dennis, Vic’s brother-in-law and partner isn’t shown in the image). Photo courtesy of the Elite Theatre Company.

See the theater’s website for upcoming plays: http://www.elitetheatre.org/.


Adios Wild Bill … enter Errol Flynn stage left

During our time together at the Elite Theatre that August 13 night Tom and I had time to chat. Early on I told him that I wanted to discuss something (and I’m certain that he thought it would be Mr. Hickok). … When we finally had the chance to talk I went for broke and threw a curveball at Tom a la Clayton Kershaw of the Los Angeles Dodgers.

I knew one thing moving forward, adios Mr. Hickok. … And honestly I didn’t know what to expect when I made the pitch.

I think that the role that I enjoyed playing the most on stage was Charley in Eat Your Heart Out. I played Charley at the Hayloft Dinner Theater in Lubbock, Texas (1976), and in Inglewood, California (1977). I luckily landed a great part in a great play. Eat Your Heart Out is about an actor trying to land acting work while waiting tables.

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Errol Flynn circa 1940-1941. LK personal collection.

There are four other actors in Eat Your Heart Out: Two women and two men who play various roles, and this is how I pitched a play on Errol Flynn to Tom but with a second historical figure on stage with him (can’t name him, sorry).

While proposing a play dealing with Flynn I also pitched using additional actors to play various roles but was vague if it would be two or three men and two or three women on stage with Flynn and the mystery man. I lean toward Flynn/other person plus six for a total of eight actors but know that Tom prefers a total of six actors. There could also be a compromise and have three actors (Flynn, one male, and one female) that play one character, and two men and two women who play various roles (for a total of seven).

Obviously identifying the characters is of utmost importance, and if truth be told they have already been selected. Don’t ask, for I ain’t a sharin’ their names. Once each player’s relevance to the play is in place an outline is mandatory to insure that this is true and that the actors that play various roles will have time to change costumes and characters. Unfortunately all of the details must remain secretive until the play is in production.

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See … LK can clean up as this photo by Steve Buffington proves. More important, I know Errol Flynn. (photo © Louis Kraft & Steve Buffington 2010)

History repeats itself: Like Leo Oliva in 2000, Tom asked if I could have the play written by next year (due to some changes that might happen with the Elite Theatre Company’s future scheduling). I told him “no,” as I needed to complete the delivery draft of Sand Creek and the Tragic End of a Lifeway first. Once the Sand Creek book is in production at OU Press I’ll be on Errol & Olivia* full time and it will be perfect timing for doing a play on Mr. Flynn.

* For the record I plan on writing three books about Errol Flynn, but will space them between Indian wars books that deal with race relations (that is if I’m able to successfully pitch my next Indian wars subjects to OU Press).

The Louis Kraft writing world differs from other writers’ worlds

Website & blogs © Louis Kraft 2013-2020

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


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

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Taken at Saul’s townhouse in Los Angeles on 8jul2015. From left Vee Morra, Pailin, and Saul Saladow. Photo by Louis Kraft, and © Pailin Subanna-Kraft, Veronica Morra, Saul Saladow, and Louis Kraft 2015)

Pailin met both Vee and Saul when they visited us for dinner at Tujunga House in December 2013. Vee had traveled to Los Angeles to see Saul (who is a lifelong friend of hers) and other friends from long-gone days. Luckily they had one afternoon and evening free to visit us. Good times.

Nearing the end of our visit to Saul’s home Vee told me about a writer that she not only knows but likes the lady’s writing. She told me that this person spends nine months researching a book and then writes it in three months. Although I have continued to work on the Thai blog, which continues to grow, this writing schedule grabbed my interest. It is something that I want to discuss for although it is related to my writing life it is in stark contrast to my writing world.

This means one thing—lucky you—for this blog should be relatively short by my standards. At least I hope so. … Fat chance.

Not too long back in the past …

Over the course of my life I have met and known many writers, editors, agents, and other talented people that have played small and large roles in my writing world. Some have taken me under their wing and nurtured me and have done everything to further my career (and that includes in the software world). Others have been less open or friendly. I’ve always rolled with the punches.

In 1987 I learned of a Western Writers of America convention in San Diego, California, and contacted one of the hosts of the event. He made it possible for me to know exactly what I needed to do to attend the event. By this time I had been selling articles and giving talks about the American Indian wars since the mid-1980s. I had also had some eight or nine intense screenwriting years with an agent and a writer-producer between 1976 and 1984, both of whom marked up my manuscripts and then discussed them in detail. These two fellows played a huge role in my future. The agent and I came close to optioning or selling on several occasions without success and this included me pitching my film contacts, which were numerous back then. The writer-producer loved a screenplay that was about the destruction of Germany in WW II as seen through the eyes of a U-boat commander and his Jewish girlfriend (yep, I was dealing with racial content way back then), but he wanted me to rewrite it and take out the genocide on Jews and change the war to WW I. If I did this he said that he’d produce the film. You can guess my answer: “No,” as he wanted to remove the entire reason why I wrote the screenplay. By 1987 I had also taken a ten-week fiction class at UCLA and had continued private lessons in Westwood, California, with the writer that taught it. I had a completed and polished novel called The Null State, which dealt with bootlegging on the modern-day Navajo Reservation. It was a thriller that also dealt with race, and my research marked the first time that I would spend an extended time on the Diné (as the Navajos call themselves) reservation.

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LK doesn’t have many images from the years 1987 through 1989 (and none of the writer I’m talking about—later in our years of friendship I have a lot of images but decided that none would be featured on this blog). This 1989 image was taken at Encino House (the first house I owned with my first wife). Dejah Thoris, named after Edgar Rice Burroughs’ The Princess of Mars (Burroughs first novel in his John Carter of Mars series) was the most affectionate and kindest animal I have ever known. Yep, she’s giving me a big kiss. I loved her with all my heart and have never owned another animal after her death in 1992. When fully grown she was 55 pounds. My brother Lee had two Doberman Pinschers and they were both about 110 pounds. They were kind animals too, and they always greeted me by leaping up on me—this meant that I would back up a couple of feet as I tried to regain my balance. That said they were kind and loving dogs. Certainly animals can be trained to hurt and maim but that’s on the owner and not the animal. … That is my father to my left. BTW that’s not straight juice that I’m drinking, as I don’t think that I drank straight juice at that time. It was probably a Screwdriver. (photo © Louis Kraft 1989)

At the San Diego convention I met an Apache expert (Danny Aranda and his beautiful sister, who would have a short life—when I learned of this decades later it destroyed me but luckily I kept control of my emotions) that would become a long-time long-distance friend to this day. I would also meet a woman that would soon become my agent. She tried to sell The Null State but couldn’t. In 1989 she would sell an unwritten story that I pitched with her one night to an editor. I hadn’t written a word of my proposed The Moon of the Changing Season, which focused on race relations during the lead up to the October 1867 peace council at Medicine Lodge Creek in Kansas between the whites and the five major plains tribes on the central and southern plains. The “moon of the changing season” was what the Cheyennes called October. Walker and Company published my manuscript as The Final Showdown in April 1992. She and I also sold a follow-up western that dealt with Kit Carson, a Navajo warrior, and his granddaughter (but that contract ended when the publisher decided to drop their western line).

The writer that had helped me attend the 1987 WWA convention became a friend. He had sold a lot of novels, but most were hack genre fiction that if I remember correctly he wrote them in one or two months and did one review pass after he competed his draft. These stories became part of a number of genre series of books of which one was published each month under pseudonyms that represented four or five or maybe six writers creating the 12 books published each year for the various titles. I didn’t spend much time discussing this business with him as I really didn’t want to write fiction that I didn’t like reading. … To be honest, I don’t like reading clichéd crap and I certainly didn’t want to write it.

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In 1980 after our mother died on January 4 my brother Lee and I decided, with a group of friends, to create a baseball team. For the next 10 years Lee and I won a lot of trophies with our team the Cool-Aid Kids. During those years he and I played illegally or legally for other teams. A team had to have enough players to compete on any given day or night. If not they forfeited the game. Often brother Lee and I played for the Warriors (and we didn’t pay to play but were legal members of the team). They called us when they needed extra players. On this day in 1989 I played third base for the Warriors. I’m right handed (with the sword, in tennis, and certainly when writing with a pen), but I learned early in life that I was a better hitter left-handed. Over the years I didn’t bat right-handed often, but when playing for other teams I would practice my right-hand swing in a game situation. On this day I had rolled a couple of ground balls to the third baseman or shortstop. Easy outs. I wanted a hit. In the softball that I played there were four outfielders and this opposing team had a left-center fielder. He moved in, and I hoped for an outside pitch. I got it and drilled hook to left center field and as he raced back it sliced away from him. An easy home run. (photo © Louis Kraft 1989)

But this novel writer I met in 1987 always had to be right. He was light on research, but knew everything. Worse, whenever he decided to tear into my family or people close to me he would lead off with, “I’ve got to tell the truth.” He would then get to his point, which ran along the lines of “I never liked her,” “She was too negative,” “Your sister has no right to say what she did about religion” (I believe that he had told me that he was an agnostic). Ouch! Sometimes I can only stomach so much of this kind of bullshit. … In 2014 I had offered to visit him for the umpteenth time to introduce him to the lady who would become my wife (both phone messages and email). No reply (I should add that whenever he visited SoCal he refused to visit me—he was only passing through and always too busy; I was always passing through Arizona on the I-40 and I always made the time to visit him.

Oh yeah, an explosion was a comin’.

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This art of Pailin and LK is based upon a photo taken by our great friend Glen Williams in Texas on 13oct2014.

In 2014 a chief historian in the National Park Service asked me to review a document on Ned Wynkoop that the park service was preparing for the Sand Creek Massacre, Fort Larned, and Washita Battlefield National Historic Sites. I did and it was constructive … and ignored (If you ever see the document and know something about Wynkoop you would cringe). I sent him a link to a blog that took the National Park Service to task (see https://www.louiskraftwriter.com/2014/08/30/national-park-service-ned-wynkoop-a-bad-taste/). His reply, and this is a paraphrase: Why would they read an unsolicited review? He then blasted me for being an expert on Wynkoop and not writing about anything else. Hello? Charles Gatewood, Geronimo, and the Apaches don’t count? Two books, and I had given him both of them (my guess is that he never read them). I had just delivered a major talk in Arizona on Gatewood and Geronimo and was working on the October 2015 Wild West Geronimo article (“Geronimo’s Gunfighter Attitude”), both of which have been publicized on my blogs and elsewhere on social media. Or George Armstrong Custer; one book, a fair amount of talks, and numerous articles (some of which had been requested by editors). Hell, there have been Errol Flynn talks in five states, numerous articles, and plenty of publicity on social media not to mention two additional books on Flynn (documented on these blogs). I’ve been pushing The Discovery since I moved away from being a consultant (which began in 2010, but ended in 2011) and became a partner at the end of 2014.

Yes, this relationship has ended as he didn’t like my reply.
For the record, I have been advertising a future blog that deals
with this writer but as of the posting of this blog that is now history.
End of him and end of subject.

Not quite, even though he had met Pailin and I had informed him of our marriage, his last comment to me before I went ballistic was, “Whatever happened to your girlfriend?” Yeah, F—him. His name was Gary McCarthy, and I unloaded all eight or ten of his books that I had at a local used book dealer (they made me three bucks richer).

Michael Blake, a special person and writer

I met Michael Blake, who won an Oscar for his screenplay for Dances With Wolves (1990) in 1991. On 2dec2006 when we both spoke at an Upton and Sons Publishers Symposium in El Segundo, California (“Voices of the West”). On that day I spoke about Errol Flynn and George Armstrong Custer, and he spoke about the Bison. Michael loved the horse, but on this day he shared his love for the buffalo and the natural world. Afterwards we hung out on the hotel’s balcony and talked and got to know each other—where we’ve been and where we hoped to go.

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Michael Blake talking at Southwestern Oklahoma State University on 8nov2006. This is pretty much the Michael Blake that I met in El Segundo, California, in December of that same year.

We had previously known each other when Michael initiated the relationship by phone when he was writing Indian Yell: The Heart of an American Insurgency (Northland, 2006). He had asked me to review his chapter dealing with Custer’s November 1868 attack on Black Kettle’s Washita village. He had read my Custer and the Cheyenne while recovering from an operation and had contacted publisher Dick Upton to obtain my phone number. This began our relationship, which was confirmed at Dick’s symposium when we got to hang out together.

One thing that we compared over the years were our operations. I have had a lot, but Michael’s count made me sound like an “also ran” or “rookie.” My good friend Dick Upton let me know that Michael had unfortunately died on 2may2015. On Michael’s Facebook page his wife Marianne wrote: “We miss him very much but take strength in the fact that he is at peace now, reunited with his heroes — animals and humans alike.” I never knew his wife or children, but we continued to communicate mainly through letters and the phone. He was a survivor who had a clear focus on his life, what was important to him, and what he wrote.

He kindly gave me some of his published writing and I gave him some of mine. Michael wrote two autobiographical nonfiction works that I am aware of, and they were magnificent. In my humble opinion they were his best nonfiction books. You’ve got to realize that when I read a book I’m paying attention and taking notes of why or why not I like the book. This was and is a learning process that continues to this day. Whenever I coach or hire out to novice writers or wannabe writers I always tell them to think about books they’ve read and decide why they like or don’t like the book. … I have no comments on Michael’s Like A Running Dog, Vol. 1: Los Angeles, 1970-1972 (Hrymfaxe LLC, 2002) and his follow-up book Like A Running Dog, Volume II—Los Angeles 1979-1982, other than that they were great reads.

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As I said in the flow of the text I couldn’t find Michael’s memoirs, but time is short and I couldn’t tear the house apart for I have too much on my plate at the moment. Put mildly I’m not pleased with myself. I decided to grab an image from my talk on the day that Michael and I met in person that December of 2006. It was slightly out of focus but I could have fixed that. Instead I decided to play around with color and turn it into art. What you are looking at here fits my life quite well. Mainly that I cherish a lot of people who are writers or artists or directors or artistic people or just normal folks that I love. I love their creativity, I love their thought process, I love their friendship, but most important I love knowing them. That said I can’t tell you how often I have missed out because I didn’t call, didn’t visit, didn’t take that extra step to spend time with special people. (I saw my brother Lee Kraft three, four, five times a week but his sudden death has torn me apart to this day and destroyed our father; Dale Schuler, my father’s best friend and partner who was like a father to me; Mark Hendrickson, an actor and magician who grew up next door to me; and Doug McGirr, my ex-wife’s brother and my friend since I met him in 1967—his death has shocked my daughter Marissa and awakened her to how precious life really is. These were sudden deaths, but there have been friends who didn’t live close that fought for their lives that I called once but waited too long to call again; Tony Graham and Doug Matheson are just two.) … I don’t walk with the devil but red is the color that represents the end to me. This image is to remind me not to pass off until tomorrow calls, emails, or visits that I could do today. (art © Louis Kraft 2015)

I have both in hardbound editions but it looks like only Volume I was published (but the two books Michael sent me look close, and certainly my Volume I looks like the printed book). I have an admission to make; I have books and research in every room except for the bathroom. I know, a sad state of affairs and Pailin reminds me of this. I can’t find these two books, but I have them and they are mine. They “ain’t” going nowhere, unless you gut me with your Bowie knife (I should add that I’ll nail you first, so don’t even think about it). Let’s take that “great reads” comment to the next level, if you are going to write an autobiographical piece do yourself a favor and read Michael’s two books. I don’t care if you are a novice writer, a bad writer, or a good writer, you’ll learn content flow, word usage, and composition from Michael’s text. You’ll also see a damned good way to write an autobiography or memoir.

I really should mention Michael’s Marching to Valhalla (Villard Books, Westminster, Maryland, 1996). I read this book when it was published, and this happened before Michael and I met via phone. At the time I saw at least one review that stated that Michael pulled his storyline from Errol Flynn’s film, They Died With Their Boots On (Warner Bros., 1941). Flynn’s film is one of my favorite films of all time (see Wild West, August 2014 for “Must See, Must Read” by LK), and as far as I was concerned that review was pure bullshit. By that I mean that I don’t think that Michael’s book and Flynn’s film were similar. I liked Michael’s novel about George Armstrong Custer. I wasn’t crazy about it but I liked it, and more important I thought that it would translate to the screen. Years later, in one of my better articles in a national magazine, (“Custer: The Truth Behind the Silver Screen Myth,” American History, February 2008) I pitched Michael’s quest to get his book onto the screen. If memory serves me back in those days he had a few big-name actors attached to the possibility but alas nothing happened. A shame, for it could have been a good film.

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Michael Blake as he appears in his DVD The American West: On the road with Michael Blake (image © Wolf Creek Productions, 2008)

Moving forward Michael sent me a “Screener Copy” of a great filmed nonfiction documentary series idea that he shot with director John Carver (Wolf Creek Productions, 2008) titled The American West: On the road with Michael Blake. It was slow and meandering—perfect for this type of Indian wars documentary as Michael, on horseback—a place he loved—talked about the end of the Apache wars as he took you to various historic sites.

Michael wanted me to write a comment for the DVD label. I did, and it appeared on his website for years (don’t think that it is there now), and he never sent me a DVD that he sent to potential backers.

Bottom line: Michael was a great human being who cared about people; living in our past; animals (he loved horses and had a great respect for the American Bison); and when he wrote he did so from the heart. Every writer should do this. … We have lost a great writer and I have lost a good long-distance friend. If you read his works he’ll be with you, and more important for me is that he’ll always be with me.

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Teaming up with Tom Eubanks for a pitch

Several years after Michael’s The American West: On the road with Michael Blake DVD was completed my great friend writer-director Tom Eubanks and I teamed and tried to sell a Ned Wynkoop/Southern Cheyennes five-episode documentary. I lined up top-notch Indian wars historians and Southern Cheyennes to take part in the project.

The image at right is based upon a photo that writer Johnny Boggs took at the final dress rehearsal for the Wynkoop one-man shows contracted by the Washita Battlefield National Historic Site (Cheyenne, Oklahoma) in December 2008. That’s director Tom Eubanks on his knees begging LK to remember his lines. I like that sentence but it’s not true. We’re discussing the prayer at the end of the play, and as you can see my nose was red. Yep, LK was doing some crying. Tom was showing me how I could improve the scene.

I made sure that Tom saw Michael’s DVD and he loved it. I added Michael’s horseback riding to the storyline to bring the viewers into the location and land that played a major role in what happened. Like Michael, we struck out. Probably in both Michael and our proposals the cost of location production killed us. As in the past, I have learned to “never say ‘never.'” If the chance arrives I will again toss Tom and myself into the ring.

Helping other writers + LK books & plays

One thing I’ve become quite good at over the years is not ripping another person’s writing (this said, my apologies for the above on McCarthy). When asked to review I’ve generously given my time and constructively marked up manuscripts. In the past I had done a fair amount of free reviews with comments of what the writer should focus on when improving his or her manuscript.

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My daughter Marissa (left in image) would meet and spend quality time with writer/historian Eric Niderost (right in image) over the years. On 15mar2003 it poured rain in Los Angeles. This used to happen in the past but during recent years Los Angeles and all of California has fallen upon hard times, actually the worst drought in over 100 years. On this day we went to see the museum at the La Brea Tar Pits next to the Los Angeles County Museum of Art and then visited magazine publisher and collector of science fiction film art and collectables Forrest J. Ackerman (center in image). Eric had set up our appointment with Forrest and his open welcome to unknown people into his Hollywood home that was really a museum became a major film history highlight. I am not a fan of horror or science fiction films, but let me tell you Mr. Ackerman had major framed posters of the key films from the silent era and into the golden age of cinema. He also had major artifacts such as Bella Lugosi’s original Dracula cape and the miniatures from the film The War of the Worlds (1953). (photo by Louis Kraft and © Marissa & Louis Kraft and Eric Niderost 2003)

One was a 100-page draft of a period thriller that took place in 1930s Shanghai by professor, historian, and author Eric Niderost, who has been my friend since 1995. It took me over a month to mark up the 100 pages (and I not only worked 40-50 hours I also had a roughly 10-hour drive weekly, and I worked on my writing usually between 20 and 40 hours every week when writing for companies). Eric had/has I think a great story idea and I hope that he pursues selling it, as he now has a completed manuscript.

I also completed a full review of Tom Eubanks’ PK (“PK” stands for “Preacher’s Kid”), which took place on a Caribbean Island (if memory serves me). Tom has been a good friend since we met at a Ventura County Writers Club weekly readings in 1990. Although we were at odds at times I saw his writing talent immediately. The group didn’t end, but I dropped out when a divorce removed me from Ventura County. I had then lived in a great house with a pool (swimming is my favorite exercise sport) a half block walk into the Santa Monica Mountains in Thousand Oaks, California. The divorce moved me back into Los Angeles County, but the end of my marriage did not mean the end of my friendship with Tom. He is one of the few people I know that whenever I see him it is just like we saw each other the previous week.

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Pailin and my great friend Tom Eubanks at his Elite Theatre complex on the Pacific Ocean in Oxnard, California, on 24apr14. That night we saw the final dress rehearsal of a play that Tom wrote and directed called The Art of Something. Over the years Tom and his wife Judy have played a major part in my life. On that evening Pailin met Tom, Judy, and their youngest daughter, Hannah (whom I’ve known since before she was born). A good night. (photo by LK, and © Pailin Subanna-Kraft, Tom Eubanks, and Louis Kraft 2014)

Tom is perhaps the most talented person I have ever known, and his energy blows me away. He’s also a wiz with words and the copy I reviewed of PK was polished. Many pages (somewhere between four and five hundred), but I completed my review of his preacher’s kid story draft in about two+ weeks. Upon my suggestion Tom changed his book title but I don’t remember what he changed it to as I never saw the printed book.

Beginning in 2002 he became my director for all the Wynkoop one-man shows and Cheyenne Blood (2009).

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This art is of LK in 2002 at Fort Larned, Kansas. I worked on it as I hope to turn it into art of Wynkoop for the Sand Creek book epilogue. I think that this is doable, and it is certainly a good start. …. BTW the goal of all writers is to create a manuscript/book that earns money. University presses are by far the best nonfiction publishers in the USA, and I consider myself lucky to write for the best Indian wars publisher in the world (University of Oklahoma Press). (art © Louis Kraft 2015)

To date he hasn’t commented on an Errol Flynn play with perhaps five or seven actors but hope burns eternal that someday I’ll catch him at a weak moment. And I still haven’t given up hope of getting Johnny Boggs’ great novel East of the Border on the stage. Yeah, I want to play Flynn and Wild Bill Hickok while I still walk this earth.

I don’t edit for free any longer. I just don’t have the time unless I work as a contractor for a reasonable salary which is usually more than most writers or would-be writers want to pay. … The offers come, but usually with attempts to reduce my salary. Bottom line: I don’t write for companies any longer and my writing focus is now my books, let me repeat that—my books, and although I could use the money, if I work as a contractor I will receive an acceptable salary and the contract will be juggled with my book projects. … For the record, my partnership with Bob Goodman on The Discovery began as a contract, but changed to a partnership upon Bob’s request and my realization that I knew that I could bring his story idea and characters to life.

Simple, and there will be no arguments or major negotiations.

LK as a minister

For almost 10 years my girlfriend was Japanese (born in Hawaii). Her name was Cindy Tengan, and I’m proud to have known her, for she was a major part of my life (and will always remain a special person who I loved with all my heart). She was gorgeous and oh-so sexy (just thinking about her brings back sensual memories of our intimacy). I can’t begin to tell how wonderful it was to hold her naked body next to me. At the time I met her, her two girls were adults. One had dropped out of college and would soon move back to Hawaii while the other was just beginning her college career. I did my best to befriend both of them. The younger daughter and I connected, and her boyfriend and I became buddies. This relationship began in late 1994.

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LK marrying Chelsea Tengan & John Fortuna at Balboa Park in San Diego, California, on 9Aug2003.

By 2003 my health was in great distress and there were two major operations that year (without checking I believe that my operation count is currently at 14). Between those operations (which cost me 4 1/2 months of downtime and learning to walk again) my lady’s daughter asked me to marry her to her boyfriend. I read her draft of the ceremony and said that I would if I could rewrite the words that I would say (she and I reviewed the draft numerous times until we mutually agreed on the text). I then laid it on her: It would be an acting performance. “What do you mean?” “I mean that I won’t read a word.” As far as I was concerned I would be playing a minister, and as such I would be performing a ceremony that I had previously performed hundreds of times. Oh yeah, Kraft was about to step onto the stage one more time. A three-person ceremony with one performance. She agreed, and we were off to the races.

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You are looking at Cindy Tengan on the day of her daughter’s wedding on 9aug2003. She was a special lady and I’m lucky to have known her for almost 10 years. She was never more beautiful, alive, or happy than I saw her on the day and night of Chelsea’s wedding. She didn’t think much of her body, which I could never understand for she was absolutely beautiful. (photo © Cindy Tengan & Louis Kraft 2003)

I had one hell of a great time marrying Chelsea to her boyfriend. I was front and center and watched the tears of joy up close. Good stuff, and one of the highlights of my life. Afterwards a lot of people commented, and they wanted to know how many marriages I had performed.

“One.”

“Get out of here!”

“And it is my last one.” This scattered most of them. Others pushed, and I pushed back just as hard: “There will be no more weddings performed by me!” The reason was simple: I didn’t and don’t have the time.

My writing world and welcome to it

My writing world is mine. It doesn’t belong to anyone else. What other writers do is part of their writing world and it has no connection with my world. I take years and years and years to research a book, and then years and more years to write the book. For example research on Ned Wynkoop and the Lonely Road from Sand Creek and Sand Creek and the Tragic End of a Lifeway began in 1985. The Wynkoop book was published in 2011 and the first draft of the Sand Creek manuscript is due on 1oct2016 (both books were/are contracted). If someone can research a major nonfiction work and write it in a year, kudos to them. All I’m saying here is that I will never create any of my books in a year.

cookCell_boggsKill_Indian_collage_july15_wsI haven’t read a lot of the nonfiction or fiction that is published each year (actually this is a major understatement). I can count all of the novelists that I respect over my entire life on my two hands. There are a lot of nonfiction writers whose work I respect. The above said, it would take me two or three hundred pages to discuss nonfiction and fiction writers that I don’t think are very good.

Yep, this is my world, and I have no intention of agreeing to bullshit, lies, and errors. I don’t care if the writer has a big name or comes from a major publication house, for the simple reason that poor research or intended errors to deceive the reading public are heinous (and from my point of view criminal acts). END OF SUBJECT.

Researching and writing a book in a year …

I’m certain that good novelists can do this. However, knowing my track record and how long it takes me to uncover the truth I don’t think that nonfiction writers can do this unless they have a huge staff performing their research for them. A recent book has done quite well, and the writer’s prose dealing with the here and now with the tragedy of Sand Creek seems to be right on the money. However, the writer’s historical research into 1864 and 1965 is error-riddled.

I say the above, as people shouldn’t take popular nonfiction as gospel for more often than not it perpetuates errors that have been in place for decades …. or worse creates new errors that will now be repeated ad nauseam.

Back to Vee’s comments on her writer-friend, … I thought she was talking about nonfiction but she had said something that her friend told her: “Characters drive plot.” This sounds like fiction to me, and if yes, I totally agree with her writer friend. The characters move the plot, and a writer must allow them to do this. … Again I haven’t read this lady’s books, so I cannot say anything about them. Going with the above, perhaps I should read one of her books, for she is right on here. … Nine months of research seems reasonable for a novel, however I believe that research for fiction (or nonfiction) should continue until the copyediting has ended for one never knows when new information that wasn’t known is found or what was thought to be factual was in fact wrong.

My problem remains with writing and delivering a polished 125,000-word fiction manuscript in three months. That’s a mouthful—no more comments.

Other than to say that I can’t and will never be able to do this.

But that’s just me.

Let’s deal with the research

Research for writers vary, but unfortunately way too many writers write books that are based upon secondary books that may or may not have faulty information. This perhaps can work in fiction, but not always and especially not when it is an historical novel or a medical thriller that require facts. Today I’m going to stick with historical fiction, which often presents itself as being based upon fact when often just the reverse is true. That is the writer didn’t perform decent research and the story is loaded with factual errors. Often I have read a novel and went “Wow! This is good stuff.” Unfortunately when I read novels that are based upon historic or modern subjects that I know intimately I am bent over in agony and screaming at the gods for the pitiful research that now unwary readers think is factual. I’m going to provide two examples here with the caveat that I don’t know how long it took the writers to research or write their books:

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Cahill’s paperback novel cover.

Sand Creek by Kevin Cahill (Bloomington, Indiana: Author House, 2005): Mr. Cahill has a good website that Northwestern University used when they explored John Evans’s actions at the time of the Sand Creek tragedy (see Report of the John Evans Study Committee, May 2014). BTW, I do believe that Mr. Cahill’s site (Kevin Cahill’s Lone Wolf Sand Creek website) is well done and of value to researchers as it offers valid links to historical documents that are available online. Evans was governor of Colorado Territory at that time. Back to Mr. Cahill’s book. He even uses historical images in his novel, and the total presentation is that his book is factual. No! The reason is simple: His research is incomplete, but not for his lack of research for I believe he was diligent. There is so much primary source material on the subject that obscure pieces can be missed. I’m not blaming Mr. Cahill at all, for I think that he created a damned good novel. … I know Ned Wynkoop and his life like the back of my hand. My study of him began in the mid-1980s and it continues to this day. … It has oft been stated that Wynkoop fell off his horse during Captain Silas Soule’s funeral procession in Denver in 1865 and that this injury would affect him for the rest of his life. True, the injury would affect him and it would worsen with time. However the year of 1865 is totally wrong, for the event happened in 1861 (Don’t believe me? Check the Rocky Mountain News in 1863 and 1865. The answer will be before your eyes.).

Wynkoop’s fall from his horse happened and the horse covering him on the ground in Denver in 1865 first saw print in secondary books, but it has been around for decades. Writers that don’t perform good research grab this 1865 horse incident and run with it. Hell, if it is in print it must be true. No!

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Many of you have seen this Wynkoop portrait that documents him confronting the Cheyenne and Arapaho battle line on 10sept1864 near a tributary of the Smoky Hill River is western Kansas. It originally saw print in the August 2014 issue of Wild West magazine in an article entitled “Wynkoop’s Gamble to End War.” It is totally copyrighted and protected, and as a grayscale image will be used in Sand Creek and the Tragic End of a Lifeway (University of Oklahoma Press). Some of my articles have won awards. My opinion: This is the best published article that I have written.

There are three major pieces of primary source material that show that Cahill is wrong (as are nonfiction writers that have repeated this piece of fiction). They are:

  • Newspaper accounts that document a funeral procession in Denver in 1863 wherein Wynkoop’s horse was spooked, reared up, and when he was not able to control the animal it fell backward and onto him (not one but many articles).
  • Wynkoop’s military file. For the record Wynkoop was at Fort Lyon, Colorado Territory, during the entire month of April 1865 and not in Denver—thus he couldn’t have attended Soule’s funeral.
  • Newspaper accounts for the entire Denver area for the month of April 1865, which contain absolutely no mention of Wynkoop being in the city at that time, attending Soule’s funeral, or having a horse mishap.

I’m picking on Mr. Cahill’s novel and I shouldn’t be. The reason is simple: There was a lot of “supposed” decent nonfiction books that confirmed what he used in his novel. Unfortunately the nonfiction books repeated what was never true. He trusted the history books he read, and I almost did, but luckily stumbled upon the truth. That’s it. If I didn’t know anything about Sand Creek story I might have loved his novel.

Ladies and gentlemen I can’t tell you how often I have been shocked by errors that are not only caused by improper or incomplete research, but worse—and here I’m talking about nonfiction—the creation of facts (that’s right, creating facts that are fiction to dupe the reader); the misrepresentation of facts on purpose or because the nonfiction writer didn’t bother to complete his or her research (Read: They read one or two or three secondary books); inadequate documentation (that is their cited notes are so obscure or vague or inaccurate that the reader cannot find them to view them). There will be two upcoming blogs that will discuss this in detail and they won’t be vague.

oswaldWynkoopBookAnother book is, believe it or not, a young readers book, Edward Wynkoop: Soldier and Indian Agent (Palmer Lake, Colorado, LLC, 2014). The author, Nancy Oswald, kindly said the following in her Acknowledgments: “I would like to acknowledge Louis Kraft, biographer and author of Ned Wynkoop and the Lonely Road from Sand Creek. Without his book and his in-depth research and knowledge, my own understanding of Wynkoop’s life would have been far less complete.”

Wow!!! The above is more than kind. Moreover her Wynkoop book won the Western Writers of America Spur award for best juvenile nonfiction for the year 2014 (SEE BELOW: For this in itself is reason enough for me to drop my membership to this organization as I have been totally embarrassed—anyone who reads her acknowledgment and knows anything about Wynkoop will think that my book is a total piece of crap … say what?).

There’s only one problem, and it is major.

I don’t think that author Oswald read my Wynkoop book, for if she did she decided to ignore many of the known facts documented in my book and replace them with often-repeated errors that are prevalent in popular nonfiction. For example:

  • Wynkoop worked as a bartender in the Criterion Saloon in Denver to earn extra money. This isn’t mentioned; instead it is replaced with the oft repeated error that Wynkoop earned money as an actor on the stage (page 12). For the record Wynkoop acted on the Denver stage but as an amateur, and he never earned a penny as an actor.
  • Wynkoop resigned his commission as U.S. Indian agent while still en route to Fort Cobb, Indian Territory, on November 29, 1868. Although he didn’t know it and would not learn of it until he returned to civilization, Black Kettle’s village on the Washita River in Indian Territory was attacked and destroyed on November 27, 1868. Black Kettle and his wife, Medicine Woman Later, died that day. On page 53 writer Oswald states: “When Wynkoop learned of Black Kettle’s death, he wrote a letter of resignation.” This statement is absolutely incorrect!

There’s more, much more but not for this blog.

Nancy Oswald’s writing flows nicely and her book is a page turner. Unfortunately she included major errors about Wynkoop. With her kind words about me she implies that these errors came from me. They did not. Web pages that profess the truth aren’t always accurate and primary information should be consulted to confirm everything on these websites. This takes time—lots of time and many writers prefer to take short cuts when researching. Many nonfiction books are error-riddled, especially popular nonfiction which doesn’t bother with notes (and believe it or not even more so with some of the major pieces of popular nonfiction that have notes).

What can I say other than I’m embarrassed by Osward’s award-winning book for it is little more than a poorly written piece of trash (Yeah, I’m repeating myself—but damn it to hell I am!), and I wish that she never said a word about my book.

Believe it or not I am considering dropping my membership in Western Writers of America (My apologies, for I’m again repeating myself.) for the simple reason that when judges are selected to review nonfiction they should make an attempt to confirm what they are reading before casting their votes. Obviously some of the members of the WWA have their fingers stuck where the sun doesn’t shine. SHAME on them!

People are my life & my writing world

People from times long gone, people from the more recent past, and people in the here and now are with me every day. I care about people, and their lives. Everyone’s life is unique and it shouldn’t be treated cavalierly nor should their lives be forgotten because they weren’t a king or president or sports hero or a soldier that was responsible for the death of innocent people or just an evil person that rapes, steals, and murders.

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My ex-wife’s and my gift to my sister, Linda, was that I would shoot her wedding to Greg Morgon on 3dec1988 at their church in Long Beach, California (others shot some photos but they were catch as catch can) and give them prints. My ex-wife worked for a number of years as a professional photographer. I learned from her, directors of photography on films and TV, and from fashion photographers that I worked with over the years. Here I’m trying to get a little too “artsy-fartsy,” but I liked my attempt (even though it is out of focus). My ex-wife, Marissa, and my father participated in the wedding ceremony. My brother Lee refused to attend (no matter what my father or I said to him), and his reasoning was valid (but this is for the memoir). I was present, but there are no photos proving this. My sister was radiant and beautiful, but then she was always beautiful. This image is full frame as I captured her in the mirror of the bride’s dressing room before the ceremony. (photo © Louis Kraft 1988)

I grew up with two parents that accepted people regardless of their race. But in those times during my school years and for decades after I saw a lot of racial prejudice. Sometimes I closed my ears. At other times I didn’t but depending upon the person I might have just scratched them off. My sister, Linda, served as a deputy sheriff in the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department and then as an investigator for the Los Angeles District Attorney. When she knew that the end had arrived she gave me both of her badges, and I cherish them. I saw racial attitudes in her at times but placed them on her career path. Strangely she kept her distance from our family for most of her adult life (and my ex-wife has suggested a reason that I think may be correct).

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Doris & Louis Kraft Sr. at their home in Reseda, California, in 1972. Photo by Joan McGirr.

During the last two years of our mother’s life, my brother Lee who then lived at home gave our mother multiple shots every day and our father drove her to San Diego for experimental cancer treatments monthly. Our mother went into a hospital three weeks before Christmas 1979. On a Saturday morning I took a day off and flew home from San Diego where I worked on a film shooting at sea. She was released that day and I spent almost two days with her before returning to the location. Linda wasn’t around. I had one more week at sea and then a couple of days at the studio for pick up shots. My work ended three days before Christmas. Linda, who’s birthday was December 24, arrived. Mom wasn’t good, and the day after Christmas she returned to the hospital for the last 10 days of her life. I spent those 10 days and deep into the nights with my father, and this cemented our relationship for all time. On New Year’s Eve after he and I left the hospital we returned to his and my mother’s home and drank and smoked and and talked deep into the wee hours. I finished my last cigarette just before the midnight hour and have never smoked since.

Lee, who was 23 was distraught, placed the blame on himself for the inevitable, which happened on January 4, 1980. Linda wasn’t around. When I asked her about this later, she said: “I didn’t know Mom was dying.”

Our father died 19 years later. I had been taking care of him for years, and just before the end he said to me, “If I knew that I’d live this long I would have taken better care of myself.” I called Linda on a Friday night and told her that dad wouldn’t make it through the weekend. He died two days later on Valentine’s Day. On that day I left over 40 voice mails on her home and cell phones updating our father’s status. Early on Monday morning she finally called me. “Where were you?” I asked. “It was Valentine’s Day,” she replied. “Besides I didn’t believe you.” My sister was AWOL for our mother, our father, Lee, and myself her entire life. She was about her, and we didn’t exist. Over the years I had tried to love her, but couldn’t, but now I knew why. The upcoming days would confirm what I already suspected. She not only lied to us, she stole from us. Certainly from me, for after dad was gone she stole over $250,000 from me by selling his house without letting me know. Her reason: she needed a downpayment so she could buy a third house. She sold dad’s house for $139,000. Five months later his house sold for $510,000. When I told her this she snarled at me: “Why did you tell me this.?” “Because I wanted you to know how much money you F—ed me out of because of your greed.”

leeKraft&robinFried_xmas1988_EncinoHouse_ws

Lee Kraft and his girlfriend Robin Fried at the first house that my ex-wife and I owned in Encino, California, on Christmas day 1988. He was a good looking fellow and the best athlete I ever played with or against. He had a great smile. Robin was a lady that I always liked, and even more so after Lee’s death in a little over a year for she was absolutely terrific with my dad. Luckily she found me on social media and we have reconnected (after a long separation that I had nothing to do with and didn’t know about until long after my father died in 1999). Again, my loving sister (and I am sarcastic here) did everything possible to destroy everyone connected with our family, and this included Robin who my father loved like a daughter. I took at least one other photo of Lee on that day, and that photo is my favorite of my brother. (photo © Louis Kraft 1988).

Although Lee was nine and a half years younger than I was we were always close. We shared a bedroom during the entire time I lived at home. One night when he was still young our mother caught me climbing out the window with him my arms. “What are you doing?” “The Martians are coming. We’ve got to get out now!” (I never did well with horror and science fiction films.) When he was about 10 or 11 I told my mother that he was stealing my clothes. She questioned him. “No,” Lee said. We lived on half an acre in a rural area of Reseda, California. One day I was going out the back door and Lee was stuffing one of my coats into an old washing machine that our father hadn’t gotten rid of yet. Oops!

Our relationship grew even stronger once he reached 18 or so. But Lee also had some racial tendencies (which I saw when we played sports, and this I found surprising for our ball team had players of various races and they were his friends). And you know how it is; brothers would be brothers and they would fight and this grew as he also became an adult. When a friend of Lee’s, Ron Powell (who I liked), was redoing my roof in Encino with Lee and I was assisting he didn’t finish the job and when I had to hire another roofer to finish the work I kept Powell’s tools. This angered Lee and we didn’t speak for quite a number of months (eventually I returned the tools). On another occasion we had a ball practice on a holiday before Lee and his wife Teresa or his long-time girlfriend Robin (who adored our dad until his death) and Tony and Cindy Graham were coming over for a barbecue. After the practice Tony (who I believe was Lee’s best friend of all time) told me he decided to do something else. We got into a fight and then suddenly it was Lee and I wrestling around on the ground with Tony trying to drag us apart. Another string of months with no communication. But then it was over and was just like nothing had happened.

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Pailin asked to take a picture of me as I cooked dinner for four good friends that visited Tujunga House on the Fourth of July 2015. The front of the house faces east but it was a sunny day and sunshine still blasted through the dinning room windows. We had good lighting but for some reason her phone camera messed up big time. I liked the image for it both told a story and gave a good rendition of what I currently looked like. Some people cringe (I can see it in their eyes); others like this look. Me? It’s my shaggy dog look. Sudeshna Ghosh, Robin Fried, and Pailin all like it. When I growl at Pailin and ask her opinion about getting my hair cut, she refuses to answer. Silence is golden. To use the image I used my paintbrush and healing brush tool in Photoshop. I decided to use this image here as shows you how close Lee and I looked. (art © Louis Kraft 2015)

Lee was always there for me.

The memoir is coming. The question is, how do I write it? I know the answer. Truthfully. I haven’t read many autobiographies or memoirs that are truthful; many are gloss overs or sometimes attacks. There is good and there is bad. There are good times and there are bad times. Certainly for me. Relationships begin and unfortunately many end. Why? What happened? Why did I get that acting job? Why didn’t I get those 50 acting jobs? Before he died Edward G. Robinson, a big star from the golden age of film, said that he wished that he had a nickel for every time one of his films played on TV (actors didn’t receive residuals in those days). I wish I had fifty bucks for every job interview and writing pitch or query that I’ve made over the years. … I’ve been knocked cold; I’ve taken a motorcycle over a cliff; I’ve had a knife at my throat in Austin, Texas, in 1970; six years later I was lucky to get out of Lubbock, Texas, without being tarred and feathered; I had a revolver pointed at me while driving Marissa to school (I told her to get off the seat and onto the floorboard); I took a fast car into a freeway center divider at high speed after it hydroplaned and spun out at about 65 mph. After hitting the center divider it spun two more times and took out the passenger side and then the rear end of the car. Surprisingly I walked away from the crash with my spine still functioning (my Vette died but it saved my life).

They say that the good die young, … but I don’t look at myself as evil.

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This is my lady, wife, and best friend Pailin in the front of Tujunga House on 24oct2013. … A little over a week ago she asked if we’d do a research trip this year. Alas, this isn’t in our timeline as she has continued schooling for her California Massage Therapy Council certification and I have major writing work staring at me. She experienced a research trip for the first time in fall 2014, loved it, and she is ready to go when I need to do another research trip. This is a first for LK!!!! (photo © Pailin Subanna-Kraft and Louis Kraft 2013)

I’m not telling you anything that you haven’t seen or experienced personally. My goal is to tell this story truthfully, and by the way this memoir has been in the works for years. You would be floored if you saw how much research I have. That said I haven’t written a word (but that’s not true for you’re seeing a fair amount of it in these blogs). … That’s right, I use the blogs as a research tool for myself.

All of the words in this section are here for one reason. I must know as much as possible before I develop a talk, write an article or a book, and the research never ends. There are answers out there and I want to know them. This has been in place since the Custer/Cheyenne book, for both of the Gatewood/Geronimo/Apache books, the Wynkoop/Cheyenne book, the Flynn and de Havilland book (which is on hold at the moment), and so it will be for the Sand Creek book (Cheyennes and Arapahos and their lifeways, whites who want to develop a great new land, whites who married Indian women, their mixed-blood children, and the whites that spoke out against the killing of Cheyennes and Arapahos who were told that they were under the protection of the military when they were attacked and in many cases sexually hacked to pieces at Sand Creek in Colorado Territory on November 29, 1864). These books are hard to write for I want the people to come to life, and to do this I must find what made them tick, what made them do what they did. Actions and not words define who people are.

A lot of research, a lot of edits, and a lot of rewrites went into the creation of this blog. Writing is what I do. It is work and it takes time to get it right.

The mists of reality dance in and out of my writing world

Website & blogs © Louis Kraft 2013-2020

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


LK is pounding the keys on Sand Creek and the Tragic End of a Lifeway, but as usual I juggle my major projects. The Discovery has demanded a lot of my time over the last year and a half, but now that the novel’s prose has reached the polishing stage it demands less (although I still have a lot to do before it sees publication).

I plan on spending some time dealing with writing hacks and technical writing.

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A publicity photo taken on 24mar2002 for the first Wynkoop one-man play. I had the hat designed from an 1867 woodcut of Wynkoop that appeared in the 11may1867 issue of Harper’s Weekly. (photo © Louis Kraft 2002)

This means that Black Kettle, Tall Bull, Lean Bear, William Byers, John Evans, John Chivington, Charley, George and William Bent, John Smith, Silas Soule, and of course that ol’ blackguard Ned Wynkoop will dominate my mind for a long time to come. They will remain the number one consumer of my time until Sand Creek and the Tragic End of a Lifeway is published. Of course not too far back “Geronimo’s Gunfighter Attitude” dominated my life. Heck, it only took five days for me to edit, rewrite, and cut 900+ words from the October 2015 Wild West article earlier this month (see Geronimo preempts the Sand Creek manuscript). WW editor Greg Lalire then edited my changes and added a little less than 100 words to the story. Unfortunately he got creative and added some errors, which my second review fixed. I think Greg is correct, a shortened word count can still produce a good story. I won’t be happy until the article is published for then, and only then, will I be able to read it and decide if it is decent or a piece of crap. This isn’t a negative view by me, for this is how I view all of my written work—I must read the published piece before I can judge it.

Moving into my writing world

Damn, but Kraft is dancing on air. No more articles; at least none are planned or pitched. No more talks (although I have an idea for one on Errol Flynn that would be perfect for New Mexico). No more anything but writing books (and blogs). I’m in hog heaven. Or should I say Harley-Davidson heaven? Now there’s a thought. …

krafts&PailinMotorcycleMontage_wsPailin has ridden motorcycles in her homeland as have I in my dark ages. … If ever we made Thailand our homeland (Pailin, please don’t growl if you read this) and we had a Vette (and they sell them in Bangkok) or a Harley (and I’m certain that they sell them in Bangkok) we would be noticed wherever we cruised in Thailand. … Oops! No–no Kraft! This is a taboo subject and not open to discussion (sorry; don’t ask).

Back to the point … my writing world

I have finally reached my present life. Believe it or not, it has taken me three years to reach this point in time. A lot of thinking and decisions led the way to this rainy May day late last week.

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LK art of Tujunga House on 14may2015 due to me trying to capture a photo on this early morn after rainfall (something that doesn’t happen often in SoCal). Unfortunately I tried to get artsy-fartsy and took the image from behind growth in the foreground, which threw the subject matter out of focus. I had to play around to make the image usable. What you are seeing is a long-term project to turn the jungle into cacti and other vegetation natural to the SoCal climate. This project (which isn’t complete) began over two years ago when I realized the future. … Moreover, and more important, it was my attempt to deal with the LA Department of Water and Power (I’d like to say some truths here but don’t dare). I’ll let the Los Angeles Times, which has been pounding all sorts of issues within the LA DWP for a long time, do it for me. Here are two features in the 20may2015 issue of the paper: “Bill For $51,649.32: Couple were charged for using 6.7 million gallons of water” by columnist Steve Lopez (This elderly couple were basically ignored when they inquired about the bill, but were eventually told that they had a leaky toilet.), and “DWP hints at raising rates” by Matt Stevens (Nothing new here, for the DWP, and again I don’t want to say anything that will garner me a $50 thousand bill, need an additional $270 million for the next five years to cover their costs. There is more to this story than in the article. I know what has been going on for years and so do many Angelenos, but silence is golden.)

Undoubtedly, or perhaps unfortunately, this blog will go live on a sunny May day.

I need to do another rain dance outside … to break up the monotony of blue skies with nary a rain cloud in sight.

For the record, I love talking in front of an audience, I love acting on stage in plays that I write (and fingers are crossed that I can eventually play Flynn on stage), and I love writing magazine articles, but something had to give. Something had to be jettisoned to ensure that my ship doesn’t capsize.

Two major pieces to this puzzle are finances and time.

If I want to place the blame on anything, my mentalist capabilities point directly at these two villains, finances and time.

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Simon Baker is The Mentalist in this superb TV series that includes a cast that has a connection with each other, and there are backstories on all them. More to come on this show. This image is the cover for the third season.

BTW, The Mentalist is a great TV show. Well-crafted scripts and good production values, and the five leading actors play well off each other. For me the show is an absolute delight to watch, especially Simon Baker as Patrick Jane, a consultant to the California Bureau of Investigation (CBI). As I’ve stated before, when I exercise I study film. Currently The Mentalist is my partner in crime. While it thrills me, grabs me, and has involved me, it allows me to work on my strength, my balance, and hopefully my capability to walk.

Back to the point … my current projects

  • Sand Creek and the Tragic End of a Lifeway
    Research and writing continues, and as mentioned above, this manuscript is now my prime project (no more detours!). When completed, this will be the most difficult book that I have ever written. Ladies and gents, I’m a biographer; I write about one or two people and their actions dictate the flow of the text. I write about people, and my friend and great editor-in-chief at OU Press Chuck Rankin bought into this. He has enough trust in me to deliver a manuscript, and I will, that shows the events through the eyes of the players in the story—leading and major supporting (and they will be determined by what I have, what I find, and by what writer-historian friends have kindly supplied me with that I wasn’t privy to).

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    My Sand Creek manuscript is again dominating my life (and has for days). Yes!!! (Alas, this is not the forthcoming announcement that I mentioned in the previous blog; the link is above). … In my people-dominated Sand Creek manuscript I’m currently dealing with William and Elizabeth Byers. Good stuff, especially for Elizabeth, as I want as much about the ladies as I can possibly get into the book. William was publisher and editor of the Rocky Mountain News, and he played a huge role in the Sand Creek story. I’m also moving forward with John Evans, the second governor of Colorado Territory. He was instrumental to the events that led up to the November 1864 attack on the Cheyenne and Arapaho village on Sand Creek. There is a big smile on my face … and it is growing by the minute as the word count grows. I chose to show this image of Byers as it will never make it into the Sand Creek story. Reason: This image is long out of the scope of the book, but more important I have three images I want to use of him. As my image contract count has expanded (without checking I believe it has grown to 37 including maps), I’m seriously considering two images of Mr. Byers. BTW if you don’t know Byers, he was one tough hombre in a harsh land. He was opinionated and had no problems sharing his views. This made him a marked man, and yet he never backed down from what he thought was right. His connection to Wynkoop dates back to early 1859 when he and a partner were preparing a book on the Colorado gold fields. Byers and Wynkoop began their long-term relationship as friends, but it didn’t end that way.

    Moving the story forward through people’s actions sounds easy, but it isn’t. I’ve got facts and figures, and there is still more that I’m researching, but they—reports, letters, statements—don’t add up to a readable book that will keep readers turning pages as opposed to falling asleep after ten or fifteen minutes. My goal is to bring these players to life and allow them through their actions to breathe life into this story. The scope is huge for there are numerous leading and supporting players (and don’t forget minor players), and they all lived through a turbulent time where violence could strike without warning. One day you could be fine and enjoying life and the next day your family could be dead. Fear, hatred, a need to seek revenge are normal and in no way make people in this situation evil.1 They react. We all react.

    War has never changed, for it is basically kill or be killed.

    However, sometimes actions go beyond kill or be killed, and I’m not talking about a bloodlust. What I’m talking about is stepping beyond the limit of what a person knows is wrong and yet still does it. It is action, that is what a person does as it shows who he or she really is and it negates what they say they are. For example, during George W. Bush’s Iraq war U.S. soldiers in a war zone discovered a girl, and if my memory is good she was 13 or 14 years old. They desired her. One day after she returned to her home these soldiers entered it. They murdered her family, they raped her and then they killed her. To hide their crime they set the house on fire. This wasn’t bloodlust in the middle of a firefight, … this was rape and murder and it was plotted. This was a heinous crime, and I have nothing good to say about those U.S. soldiers.

    What about the major and supporting players in the Sand Creek story? I don’t believe any of them viewed themselves as an evil person. Not one of them. If I do my job properly, the reader will be able to make their own decisions.

    1 There is a heck of a lot more to the Sand Creek story, and it includes culture, land, politics, and the struggle to open a new land while at the same time to retain a lifeway and freedom. This, and more, is also a part of the Sand Creek story.

  • Errol & Olivia
    In 1995 or 1996 I decided to write the first of what I envisioned as three books on Errol Flynn. Like my first book on Lt. Charles Gatewood, it took me awhile to realize that this first book needed a supporting player. For Gatewood it was Geronimo; for Flynn it is Olivia de Havilland. This manuscript has had starts and stops, and I can blame them on too much overtime in the software world, other freelance project deliveries, but most important is that I still haven’t completed what I consider mandatory research (this research is massive when compared to my Indian wars research, which is huge). I absolutely refuse to create false quotes and notes that are inaccurate at best and totally fictitious at worst. … A writer-historian has facts told to him (or her) by someone living—let’s say Olivia de Havilland (OdeH)—but if that person (for example, OdeH) can’t, or won’t, confirm when the event happened this creates a major problem. Did the event happen in 1940? In June 1940? Or did it happen in 1942? September 1942? If when the event happened can’t be confirmed and the writer—read LK—writes inaccurate facts, guess what? That’s right, this error, which might be considered major, now places a dark-dark cloud over the rest of the book’s accuracy. … I have some great stories from OdeH, but when I questioned her on when they happened, she stated: “You figure it out.” Not the correct answer. Unfortunately this answer, along with a book of fiction posing as fact in which I had no input to in any way (and you can guess what book that was), severed my inside track with this beautiful person. I feed her information when requested but it is no longer a two-way street. …eoImage_whiteAboveBottom line: I must confirm actions and tie them in with dates and locations. Until I can do this, and this deals with what I consider valid information that shows who Flynn and de Havilland were/are I can’t complete the manuscript. I absolutely refuse to create a nonfiction manuscript that includes fiction (a future blog will deal with books that do this, and the errors in those books weren’t mistakes and I can prove it). Not going to happen. For me it has been searching dark alleys in an attempt to confirm what I think is the truth. To date I have followed a lot of leads that have proved fruitless.


    When Sand Creek and the Tragic End of a Lifeway is totally back on track and humming toward completion, Errol & Olivia will again move forward as the search for truth and reality continues. … But if those dark alleys continue to lead to dead ends the 2nd Flynn book will become the 1st Flynn book. That doesn’t mean that Errol & Olivia won’t be finished, it will but it won’t happen until supposed facts are confirmed (or dropped). Simple, and that’s life. I live with it. OdeH needs to live with it.

  • The Discovery
    This is the first time that I have ever partnered on a freelance writing project. Let me put it this way, I could not have had a better experience.

    lk_BobGoodman_Flemings_26jan14

    LK with Bob Goodman, MD, at Flemings in Woodland Hills, Ca., on 26jun14. I’ve know Bob for almost 25 years, and over that time we have bonded on two levels that goes beyond medicine: Friendship and writing. That said his discovery and recommendations in 2002 set in motion many events that have affected my life to this day, … the most important being that I’m still walking the land. (photo © Pailin Subanna-Kraft & Louis Kraft and Bob Goodman 2014)

    Bob Goodman and his beautiful wife Doris have done so much to help me bring this story to completion. For the record, and I want to say it right here, when published this story will be one of the best books I’ve ever written. I still have a lot of work to do (and some of it deals with design), but I’m proud to have partnered with Bob. This book is major in my life, for it will be the first book published after I have used the LK blogs to discover my writing world voice. But, as stated elsewhere in this blog, it marks my return to fiction. For what it is worth, this is a story of people (read a character study) and their lives but I have written the text as if it is a thriller. A thriller? Surprisingly, perhaps shockingly, but certainly joyfully (from my perspective) for this story is a thriller. It will be published in early 2016 in paper and as an eBook.

    ps_doris&bobGoodman_26jun13

    At Flemings on 26jun14, Doris and Bob Goodman didn’t allow Pailin’s vocabulary or shyness to hinder this first meeting (for the record, Pailin works on her English every day and it shows). 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. (photo © Pailin Subanna-Kraft & Louis Kraft, Doris & Bob Goodman (2014)

    A book isn’t a book until it is published. The Discovery, which I’ve often shied away from saying anything about the plot as I didn’t want to give it away, is a good story. My partner, Dr. Robert Goodman, had a great idea, and we have worked hard to bring the story to life. It is not the time to say anything, … but soon. All I can say at this point is that the story is different. If you read fiction before bed and early in 2016 you obtain The Discovery there is a chance that you will be cursing Bob and I for keeping you awake. Years ago I had approached film legend Olivia de Havilland to help her complete her memoir (a manuscript that I hope and pray that she finishes, but don’t think she will). Livvie had asked me if ever I partnered with anyone on my books, and I had told her that I didn’t. She smiled and told me that was how she felt about it. … I never asked her again, but hopefully she has someone in mind if, God forbid, she can’t finish her story of her life. Bob Goodman has played a major role in my life, and if it wasn’t for him and other physicians I would have already been dancing with the angels for a long time. Years passed and Bob and I talked more and more about writing. Beginning in 2010 I acted as a consultant, edited some of his work, and provided detailed information on how to improve it. During this time our friendship grew, and in November 2013 Bob asked me if I’d like to partner on The Discovery. I was already intimate with this project and provided him with a proposal. In The Discovery things happen to real people in real ways, and best of all—and just like my Indian wars writing—there are no bad guys even though bad things happen. I don’t want to say that I’ve been there and I’ve done that, for I haven’t. … Hell, I’m not a physician and I’ve never been on trial. That said, things happen and the events affect lives. … I know that my life has traveled a rocky and very winding path. I don’t wallow in sorrow. At the same time I’m thrilled to be alive (the forever upcoming walkabout in Thailand blog will actually deal with this in some detail).

Back to the point … my future projects

Ladies and gents, fiction will play a large part in the rest of my life. No more 20+ year gaps between published novels. Actually, after The Final Showdown was published in 1992, I thought I would be a novelist while keeping my nonfiction focus on articles and talks throughout the western states that dealt with race relations during the Indian wars (and Errol Flynn, in believe it or not five states to date). My agent and I sold a follow-up book idea to the publisher of The Final Showdown. It focused on Kit Carson and Indian relations. But just before I delivered the completed manuscript to the publisher, they dropped their western line. When I confronted the agent about suing she told me that the publisher would blackball me and I’d never sell another book. Although I listened to her and agreed with her, I think her main concern was that she’d also be blackballed. Soon after we parted company. Over the years that agent and I have seen each other twice or maybe three times, and we have gotten along, but there will never be another agreement between us. Never.

This gets me to the next grouping of lk book manuscripts after Sand Creek and the Tragic End of a Lifeway, Errol & Olivia, and The Discovery. Like the above subsection I think it is best to bullet the book ideas (and that’s all they are at this point in time).

  • Kit Carson nonfiction (one or perhaps two books)
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    Carson art in LK’s personal collection that pictures him in the mid-1840s.

    I have a lot of primary source information on Mr. Carson in-house, and I have located missing primary source information. I have all of the valid secondary books from the 20th and 21st centuries, as well as what I consider valid books dating to the 19th century. Yep, I have a lot on Carson, and he is someone that I’ve been tracking for decades. Why? And especially so since he has been pounded for the last 15-20 years. The reason is simple: Most of the people that pound him (including the cretins in Taos, N. Mex., today) don’t know what the bleep they are talking about. The reason why these people are wrong is simply because they listen to, and buy into, bullshit that has no basis in reality. You do not want to know my opinion of these people, but let me just say this—their fingers are stuck where the sun doesn’t shine.

  • Kit Carson fiction
    This novel, if I do complete it, will be based upon a genre novel that I wrote in the early 1990s, but was killed when a publisher broke its contract with me. There is one major difference: It will no longer be genre fiction.When this rewrite/expansion is completed the manuscript will grow to between 100,000 and 125,000 words.It will be both a character study of Carson and an historical thriller that also features a Navajo warrior and his granddaughter. It will deal with race and race relations and it will deal with the human element during Carson and the two Navajos lives during this short piece of time.

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    Marissa Kraft w/Navajo Fortress Rock in the background (Canyon del Muerto, which is part of Canyon de Chelly on the Navajo Reservation in Arizona—the only national monument not on U.S. property) on August 7, 2012. Fortress Rock is one of the major set pieces of Navajo Blood, for it is here that fictional Navajo warrior Pedro Hueros must make a decision that will impact his and his granddaughter’s lives. … If you don’t know how I write about the Indian wars—fiction or nonfiction—I must walk the land. I must feel the sun, the wind, … I must experience how hard it is to walk. I must rub shoulders with those who came before me. The next day a Navajo guide took Marissa and I to Fortress Rock in her four-wheel drive and we studied it from all sides. It was just the three of us. Our guide requested that we not share her name or her image (and I have photos of her) on social media. Marissa and I don’t go back on our word; this lady’s name and image won’t be shared on social media. (photo © Louis & Marissa Kraft 2012)

    Carson was not the racist that he is currently being portrayed as by people who base their views on sound bytes, repeated statements in the media, and secondary books by writers who are wanna-be historians that don’t do primary research but repeat what has been printed time and again by previous writers who don’t do primary research. DUH!!! Carson was illiterate, but he did learn how to sign his name. That doesn’t mean that he was stupid for he wasn’t. Carson could speak six or seven languages: English, Spanish, Arapaho, Cheyenne, Ute, and most likely Mescalero Apache and Navajo. Why? These people of all these languages were his friends and they played a major role in his life. … The fictional Navajo warrior Pedro Hueros and his granddaughter will interact with key Navajos who lived during this tragic time.

  • 2nd Errol Flynn book
    Unlike the first book, which has the added person of Olivia de Havilland, this manuscript will focus solely on Flynn. I can’t tell you anything about this book other than it will be the best book that I write.
  • lk Memoir
    I have certainly talked about this manuscript in blogs and in other social media. This is an important book for me, for I want to delve into my psyche as well tell a truthful story of my life. To do this I must obviously deal with facts and details as I don’t want to create a whitewash, which is something many memoirs do.I learned a great lesson a long time ago: If you want to tell the truth you had better be dead when the book is published for then those who don’t want the truth known can’t sue you. Those are hard words to say, but they hit the target dead center. I have boxes of notes and documents that will back up anything that I dare to say. Hopefully when I deliver this information to the Louis Kraft Collection, this important documentation will be added to my archive. … I need to make something clear here—I’ve enjoyed my life, and would not change anything. I had a long first marriage that ended in divorce and then long-time relationships with two women. These three relationships failed, but I loved these three ladies and they me (at least for a while). From my point of view the good in these relationships far outweighs any of the bad. I do not hate these people. Far from it. My ex-wife is a friend, and I harbor no ill feelings toward the other two ladies.

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    LK leans against the archway that separates the first courtyard from the second at the Martinez Hacienda in Taos, N. Mex. I’m at home in New Mexico and I could live here, but due to recent happenings the chances of me living in Taos have about as much chance as me living in Arizona (and that is close to zero). (photo © Pailin Subanna-Kraft & Louis Kraft 2014)

    I also need to say that in Pailin I have found my soulmate and my life partner. I also need to let you know that my daughter Marissa is forever a major piece in my life. This manuscript will be truthful, and although it will deal with the bad it will be very positive.

  • A novel dealing with modern-day Anasazi in the Southwest
    This novel, which was plotted in the early 1980s, deals with modern times, people, and racism. The three leading players are a male, his daughter, and a lady. It is a thriller that will deal with mysticism, cannibalism, and love. Trust me, for it will be a be a page turner.
  • A Ned Wynkoop novel
    Originally my OU Press contract for Ned Wynkoop and the Tragic End of a Lifeway specified that I could not write about Wynkoop in the future. I refused to sign the contract with this clause and Editor-in-Chief Chuck Rankin removed it. Later Chuck explained to me that he was concerned about me writing a competitive nonfiction book about Wynkoop for another press. He also told me that what he originally wanted in the contract did not include Wynkoop in fiction. … After the Sand Creek nonfiction book I’m certain that I will walk away from Mr. Wynkoop. That said, and if I live long enough, I may attempt to deal with him in fiction but for this to happen I must double my life expectancy.
  • The pirate Francis Drake
    “El Draque,” the dragon, as the Spanish called Drake joined my life in the 5th grade and he never left. I don’t have as much primary source material on him as I’d like, but book-wise I have it all.
    lkDrakeGH_websiteHis shockingly passive attitude toward England’s deadly foe, Spain, allowed him to deal with captives in a humane way. In a time of extreme religious war Drake did not butcher. Instead he treated his captives as welcomed guests, which made him an extraordinary person during the 16th century, a time of hatred and mass killings. Back in the mid-1970s I had an acting manager, a very talented and good person whom I liked. Eventually we teamed on what would have been my first novel, but it was never completed. It dealt with Drake. I don’t know if I’ll return to this manuscript, which I have, but I will return to Drake. Certainly in fiction and hopefully in nonfiction. Yes, you are reading me correctly, for both Flynn nonfiction and Drake nonfiction could eventually impact my Indian wars nonfiction world in a major way.
  • An Errol Flynn play
    My favorite role that I ever played on stage was as Charley in Eat Your Heart Out.

    In this scene of Eat Your Heart Out, I leaped upon the chair and lunged to impress actress Robin LaValley, who played my soon-to-be girlfriend in the play. The chair always rocked and I always had to do a balancing act, … but it was fun. (photo © Louis Kraft 1976)

    I played Charley in a dinner theater in Lubbock, Texas, in 1976, and in Inglewood, California, in 1977. I luckily landed a great part in a great play. Eat Your Heart Out is about an actor trying to land acting work while waiting tables. There are four other actors in the play: Two women and two men who play various roles.

    Richard Steel-Reed, who directed Eat Your Heart Out in Lubbock and who would soon become my manager, brought in a photographer to shoot a rehearsal of the play.

    The first time I swung an imaginary blade on stage was in high school in a play called Teach Me How to Cry. Miss Victoria Francis, my acting teacher/coach, directed that play. Although I had studied under the famed U.S. Olympian, stunt man, and fencing coach Ralph Faulkner in junior high school I had trouble choreographing and performing the duel. She told me that if I didn’t get the action to look believable she’d cut the scene (it wasn’t cut). She is a special person that I know to this day.

    How Eat Your Heart Out was set up will work for the Flynn play, but I intend to increase the actors to six: Flynn and another actor with two women and two men who play various roles. I think that this will work on stage. Tom Eubanks, my good friend and great director, take heed, for this could be a great production for your theater company. Hey my friend, we need to partner one more time. Yeah, if I can sell you on another play idea this is the one.

  • A nonfiction book on Phraya Phichai
    Phraya Phichai was the Thai soldier with the broken sword. Actually this is not quite true, for he was a nobleman, a general, and close to his king. From what little I have learned of this man’s story, he was amazing (Bless you my brother Sophon and Pailin’s wonderful niece Lek for making this happen).

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    This attempt at art was based upon a statue of Phraya Phichai at Not and Font Subanna’s house in Uttaradit, Thailand, in November 2014.

    Alas, I need primary source material in the Thai language. Enter Pailin, for when I secure the primary source material, her command of the English language will be pristine and will allow me to learn the details of this exceptional man’s life. This will a book for both the USA and Thailand.

By now you know that Pailin is my lady, my best friend, and my wife. She has done Sand Creek research, Wynkoop research, and Kit Carson research.

Is she my research assistant?

According to Pailin, … “No!”

But just the other day she asked when our next research trip to the West would happen. Unfortunately I had to tell her, “Not in 2015.” On the bright side, it will happen again, as she and I love the experience of discovery and the experience of people. Our future is still to be written. Some of it will be intimate and most likely never to be shared. But there is a lot of our time together that can be shared. Yes, the times they are a changin’ and lk is loving every minute of it.

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Pailin in the front yard of Tujunga House, shortly after she moved in (17nov13). In 2013 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)

Another nonfiction book floats in the mists of time until reality happens

Actually there hopefully is another major nonfiction book in my future. It has never been discussed or named, but it has been hinted at. It is a book that I am capable of writing and it is a book that I really want to write. My potential partner needs time, somewhere between two and three years (maybe longer). This is vague, but it is all that I can say. I had cryptically mentioned it in the previous blog, and as I said then, “Don’t ask, for I ain’t talkin’.” If this story becomes reality, it will not only be a page-turner, it will change history. With or without me this is going to be a great book. My fingers are crossed that it happens and that I’m a part of the project. Time will tell. At the moment it is a go for me. Will it be the same in three years? The future has the answer, and I’m good with whatever that answer will be.

The LK future is now

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An early publicity image for The X-Files with David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson.

As The X-Files used to proclaim: “The truth is out there,” and I’m ready for it (BTW, beginning on January 24, 2016, there will be six new and special episodes of The X-Files on Fox). I wonder if David Duchovny (as Fox Mulder) and Gillian Anderson (as Dana Scully) will grab me and not let go as they had in years past.

As I hope you can tell by what you’ve read, books (and my lady) are my future. There is one additional ingredient here, my daughterMarissa. But regardless of how I view my future with Pailin or Marissa, or of my remaining time in the U.S., and I must remain in the states to complete a major portion of the Errol Flynn research (preferably in LA). Ditto Kit Carson, but a lot of my primary research on him is already in-house. I think I could complete Carson research living outside the U.S., but Flynn research is questionable at best for the cost to return to LA (and elsewhere in the USA) would be astronomical. Regardless, the clock is ticking. How fast—how fast!!?? … Still, the USA is my homeland and I love it here (I actually love LA, even though I pick on it more than I should). My first, and as the minutes speed by, most likely my only real possible destination in my homeland is Santa Fe, N. Mex. Actually I’m at home in the entire state. I always feel welcome, and there is so much of me that is already at home there. The search to move to the Land of Enchantment is ongoing, and if I never move there, it will remain ongoing until the day I die. ‘Course I’ve got to convince Pailin that this is the land for us (she was impressed in fall 2014). I think she also liked Colorado and Texas.

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This image is of Ellen & Glen William in October 2014. Good times for PSK and LK for Pailin got to meet two of my great friends and we had a good time in Texas. I’ve had bad, read “very bad,” times in Texas and good times. During the summer of 1976, which I spent in Lubbock, tornado warnings were a daily occurrence but I never saw a tornado. Most of the time I’ve spent in Texas (six plus months) the weather has been good if you ignore the wind and the humidity. Ellen, luckily, was able to spend good time with her sister and mother at this time. I met her mother during this trip and she is a special lady (I’m glad that I met her). Ellen, like Pailin, is a little pixie, and like Pailin, she is full of life. (photo © Louis Kraft, Ellen & Glen Williams 2014)

My great friend Glen Williams, who with his gorgeous wife Ellen, opened their new home to us in Denton, Texas, in October 2014. They have been my friends since sometime in the early 1990s when Glen and I linked up while at Infonet Services Corporation (now British Telecom Infonet). Glen and Ellen had had enough of the California bullshit (read taxes, taxes, and more taxes along with the escalating cost to pay for everything else). California is truly the land of the rich. Everyone else, grab your crotch for you are speeding straight toward poverty. The middle-class will soon be extinct in California. Believe me, in California you can earn over six figures and not save much, I did this, and I know it is true. At that time I worked two jobs: Writing for the software industry and freelance writing and easily put in 70 hours per week when I wasn’t getting killed with overtime by by the technology companies that hired me. For the record, Oracle paid time and a half for overtime (but I worked with a great crew of people, both engineers and management, and kept the overtime to a minimum). Some of the other companies (especially two that are long dead) were a joke. They paid great money, but you do not want to hear my opinion of them. … Someday after I spend a lot of time with a lawyer discussing details, maybe I’ll write an expose. It would be a page turner … writing about the past but still something I’m certain continues to this day. I won’t, for if I want to write an expose it will deal with my life, and in it the software companies I wrote for didn’t mean anything to my life, other than guaranteeing that I could do what I wanted on the freelance side without starving to death. They used me, and I used them. A manager I had at Sun Microsystems (a long-dead company but not lamented) asked me what I thought of my writing position. I told him, “If McDonald’s paid me more to cook hamburgers I’d work for them.”

He didn’t much care for my answer.

A short while later when Sun Microsystems resembled an airplane that had lost power and was spiraling toward a fiery impact with land this manager held a meeting to inform the writing staff (I think about 13 or 14) that a layoff was coming, a major layoff. Most didn’t believe him. I had inside information, for I spent a good amount of time with upper management and product and program managers and I had a clear picture of the future. This was supposedly illegal, but I had it. During the meeting the manager asked how the group would remember him. “As the executioner,” I proclaimed. People laughed, but several asked me if I were crazy. “No.” … On a fateful, and an oh-so publicized, day in January 2009, 69 percent of the staff in the Monrovia, Calif., office were laid off.

That afternoon a good portion of us gathered at a restaurant in Arcadia, Calif., to celebrate. To quote Martin Luther King, Jr. from his 28aug1963 speech, “I Have a Dream”: “Thank God Almighty, we are free at last!”

The nether world

Years back a clown I knew, that is a so-called novelist, questioned why I wrote for major companies. I told him, “the money.” Moreover I didn’t want to write clichéd genre novels each month, of which most were published under pseudonyms and often in numbered series that had a stable of writers hacking out the required 65,000 words. If you read one of these volumes you would run to the toilet to vomit. Or perhaps you’d enjoy the fluff that had you turning pages. I read a lot of this stuff. Hell, I studied this stuff. My decision: No way in hell am I going to write bullshit prose that is an embarrassment to me. BTW, and for the record there are some great western novels being written. My personal favorite is Johnny D. Boggs. If you want to read good western fiction, buy one of his books.

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LK at a Joni Blair catalogue shoot in 1974. The car is a 1931 Model A Ford (owned and restored by Hank Sorni). (photo © Louis Kraft & Joan McGirr 1974)

… I survived for years in the entertainment world doing just that; that is crap jobs that meant nothing. Talking only commercials here, I played a dancing sock (product???), and a tennis athlete with Micky Dolenz of Monkees’ TV fame (it may have been Kmart but I don’t remember, and I didn’t keep modeling resumes) commercials that played forever in LA in the late 1970s. There were many, but my favorite was a string of Jantzen sportswear commercials for Japan (I had the “American” look, whatever the hell that was). We shot at Union Station in downtown LA and had at least two days of shooting on the University of Southern California (USC) campus. During the shooting of a shower scene in the men’s locker room, my bathing suit apparently showed and the director called my female Japanese interpreter in from outside the locker room. After he spoke with her she asked me if I would strip. I had no problem. She stepped outside and the shooting continued. My back was to the camera, but by this time I had learned that I could have my face in profile. I don’t want to call myself a method actor, but hell, I’ve got to rinse soap off my back. I turned around. The director suddenly started jumping up and down as he screamed and pulled his hair. One of the male crew members ran to me and wrapped a towel around me. In the meantime one of the other male crew members ran to get my interpreter. After she listened to the director scream at her for a full five minutes, she calmly told me that I couldn’t face the camera.

lk_8jun80_plazaDelOro_EncinoCA_3_wsOver those years I had a lot of commercial agents, and some of them handled print work … which I absolutely hated, although at times it meant receiving nice clothes for free not to mention the salary. One thing I always made clear up front: “No ramp work!!!!” “Why not?” “Because I will hit the closest person to me when I learn I have to do this and demean myself.” “It isn’t demeaning, and you can earn good money.” “I don’t give a F—!” “That’s not a good attitude!” “Listen to me, for I will hit someone and they will land on the floor.” … I never had to hit anyone, but print work was pure hell.

The above image was taken on 8jun1980 at Plaza del Oro in Encino, Calif. (photo © Louis Kraft & Joan McGirr 1980)

Back to my writing world

There’s a wealth of Flynn research at my fingertips, as is much more Indian wars material than you’d ever guess. I write and I talk to myself as I wander about my 1928 lath and plaster house as I work on my day’s writing schedule. Write, research, write, read, write, research, edit, write some more (and if need be talk to my plants before I bang my head against a wall that won’t give, which isn’t quite true—see A gunslinger in a bathroom for a humorous story of when I locked myself in the bathroom). My writing world is mine. It is personal, and I never buy into a subject that I can’t marry for years or decades. I don’t write about good or bad, but rather I strive for a reality based upon what a person or people did. Their actions define who they are. If I do my job I provide you with their actions, and it allows you to make your decision about them. This is not easy, and takes a lot more time then you’d guess. For the last several weeks I’ve been pounding the keys on the Sand Creek manuscript. Good stuff, but only the beginning for this portion of the story for I’ll eventually need to figure out how to translate the facts to action. … I need to make a confession here; during these same three weeks I’ve been doing the same thing with Kit Carson. “What?” “Yes.” “Meaning?” “Meaning I constantly study the facts as I attempt to figure out what happened and what Carson did.” “Are you working on Carson?” “No, no work on the nonfiction Carson until I have a contract. The fictional Carson already exists, and although I haven’t done any rewriting other than on the beginning of the story, research is ongoing.” … It is research that I’m looking at. I should add that I have begun to polish The Discovery (as the reviews are in-house).

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LK & Pailin at Glen and Ellen Williams’ home in Denton, Texas, in fall 2014. Good times for the four of us and Glen’s wonderful sister, Linda Williams. I love this photo, which Glen shot at the entry to their home, for it captures PSK & LK’s life in one simple image. (photo © Louis Kraft, Pailin Subanna-Kraft, & Glen Williams 2014)

At the moment my world couldn’t be better. On 14may2015 Pailin told me how happy she was that I accepted her life. And I do, although I growl at times. She was bouncing, as she was so happy. She always is, and moreover so positive and thrilled with life. I told her that I was happy too, and as happy as she was for I was thrilled over how she has accepted my life.