An Honorable Man–a Book Review

An Honorable Man (George Mueller #1)An Honorable Man by Paul Vidich
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A period piece, from 1948 into 1953. It’s when Communism fever was hot and spies were a big deal in the Cold War. Joseph McCarthy was badgering a variety of government employees, among other targets. The book had a minor figure in the story, modeled on him.

But, the plot is mostly about who is the mole in the CIA passing info to the Russians. There are multiple suspects in the office where protagonist George Muller works. Along the way, there’s some familial challenges and romance; the latter is well-written. For a debut novel, character development, dialogue and personal habits were well done.

The only shortcoming I found came in the stereotypical conflict between the counterintelligence agents from the FBI and the CIA folks. It might have been a little better handled. As anyone who reads this type of story must know, the CIA is not supposed to be working in the USA. But then, the limitations on when they could do may not have been fully developed in 1953.

I recommend the book.

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NOTE: I have a two-hour course to present at the Western Institute of Lifelong Learning (WILL) on October 9th. WILL is affiliated with Western New Mexico University, here in Silver City. I have much work still to complete so I will be taking a break on this blog until after the class.

The Generous Jay

A repost from 2021, slightly edited. 

We followed the truck for miles, from Hatch along NM-26 to NM-27. Every hundred yards or so we’d see a red chile on the road. Hatch, New Mexico is the chile capital of the world. Some loose pods in the back were blowing from the uncovered load, or so we supposed. The distributor’s loss. Gains for the ravens or crows—or spicy sustenance for a hungry lizard. No pain for them, unlike non-human mammals. Although many folks like the burn.

Red or green? That’s what the order taker asks. A New Mexico thing—green chile cheeseburgers is a menu staple. Chile relleno with the whole pod. Onions the size of Florida oranges, the giant ones. Ristras hang decoratively from porches, drying—awaiting grinding into powder. Rotating barrels outside grocery stores roast the peppers each fall. Roadside vendors sell burlap bags filled with the red heat, cooked as is for one dish or another.

It’s chili con carne for me, without chile peppers. I’m still up for Kung Pao or General Tso’s Chicken. Sadly—not much demand in the Southwest for those items and those that can be found are just not the same. I’m not quite an acclimated New Mexican foodie yet after more than a decade here.

Those unspoken observations ran through my mind on the trip en route to Silver City. Then I saw the Mexican Jay. Just like the ones at our house, high atop the hill near Silver City. Were the Jay’s picky or kindly—knocking seed off our feeder? Other birds and the chipmunks happily scarf up what their benefactor tosses to the wall below. So, the chiles weren’t blown from the truck; the Mexican Jay sitting atop the load was tossing them off, every so often. A generous or fussy bird? Maybe it was leaving a trail to follow—nah, not likely.

Shakti and Weather Report at the Kennedy Center Concert Hall

This is one of the top five concerts I ever attended.

It came on April 23, 1976, just a few days past my birthday. Shakti with John McLaughlin, opened for Weather Report on the latter’s Black Market album tour. For those who have not been there, the Kennedy Center’s sound quality is exquisite anywhere in the hall.

McLaughlin, for a time, became known as Mahavishnu John McLaughlin. Prior to going acoustic with Shakti, his “Mahavishnu Orchestra” recorded a series of very popular fusion jazz albums. I like to describe it as “jazz at the speed of coke,” for it’s nearly hypersonic music. Some people doing coke that’s cut with speed might keep up with the tracks. Try the “Noonward Race” on the Inner Mounting Flame CD/LP from 1971 as an example (find it on YouTube, Spotify, et al).

With Shakti, he and his fellow musicians slowed—slightly. Here’s a four-minute track from the album 1976 album, “Lotus Feet”—that they played at the April 1976 concert.

If you want to hear more, here’s a link to the whole album. As you listen to the 29-minute “What Need Have I For This—What Need Have I For That—I Am Dancing At The Feet Of My Lord—All Is Bliss—All Is Bliss,” final arrangement, Imagine the members frenetically beating any of the three Indian percussion instruments with bare hands—the clay pot ghatam, the drumheads of the mridangam, or the two tablas.

A clay pot played by T.S. Vinayakaram
Played by T.S. Vinayakaram, pic  Wikipedia
Played by Zakir Hussain


Wooden drum
Played by R. Raghavan, pic Duke University music collection


Weather Report’s repertoire sounded quite different. The group regularly changed personnel, according to commentaries. All on this performance were renowned for various instruments and members of previous bands. The Black Market had an evolving sound as people came and went over time. Throughout most of its existence, the band was a quintet consisting of Zawinul, Shorter, a bass guitarist, a drummer, and a percussionist. While generally labeled as a jazz fusion group, they went beyond it sometimes. For this tour, the musicians were Wayne Shorter, Joe Zawinul, Jaco Pastorius, Alphonso Johnson, Chester Thompson, Alex Acuna, Don Alias, and Narada Michael Walden.

A Wikipedia article says that Joe Zawinul, Wayne Shorter and Miroslav Vitous founded the group. While at the Florida Nature and Culture Center in Florida (FNCC, the SGI-USA Buddhist group retreat) I told fellow Buddhist Wayne Shorter how much I enjoyed the concert. He passed away recently after an illustrious career.

I loved Gibraltar, among many other songs from this concert. Here’s a link to a 5-minute cut of the tune on YouTube.

Two New Book Reviews

A busy month–reading rather than writing. A collection of speculative fiction from DL Finn and book one in a trilogy from best selling author Mae Clair.

Let’s start with Finn, the first one I finished:

In the Tree's Shadow: A collection of stories that exist in your dreams… and nightmares.In the Tree’s Shadow: A collection of stories that exist in your dreams… and nightmares. by D.L. Finn
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A diverse collection of 27 stories from micro and flash fiction all the way to a 12,000 word novelette. Some stories are sweet while others are more sour. Some are scarier than others. Dreams vs nightmares—obviously the latter are more likely to be on the scary side. Then there’s twists; I love twists! Easy to read a few at a time or breeze right through.

There are angels and demons—(not usually in the same story). Add in a few monsters, abusive family members and other evil people. The bad people get what they have coming, one way or another, while the virtuous ones get the rewards they have earned for good deeds or enduring suffering. For me, that’s karma.

For a fellow writer, it’s inspiring to see how some of the characters were authors whose stories came from the dreams or nightmares, as part of the storyline. Beyond that, I found the mix encouraging for choosing a diverse collection of differing length and themes in a recent book of my own. Finn’s may be better than mine. Only time will tell.

Some of my favorites in Finn’s collection: End of the Road; A Man on the Pier; The Dolphin; When the Lights Go Out; and Stranded (the novelette; the story I liked most—which added in some sci-fi). I will definitely be reading more from D.L Finn—I like her style.

Moving on, let’s take a look at my next review, Mae Clair’s book

Cusp of Night (Hode's Hill, #1)Cusp of Night by Mae Clair
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

It’s the first book in a trilogy; I have the second loaded on my tablet. I’ll be getting to that soon and the third will follow. It’s a well-written book with well-developed characters. It covers lots of writing territory, not all of which I typically read, but I’m glad I extended myself. The Goodreads blurb lists these genres:
• Mystery
• Paranormal
• Thriller
• Suspense
• Supernatural
• Fantasy horror
• And more

The opening confused me. A woman traveling in a carriage along a street with gas-fueled lamps lighting the way on a foggy night. On April 9, 1900, Edison’s electric street lights hadn’t extended to Hode’s Hill, Pennsylvania. The trip to Lady Glass, a spiritualist, didn’t end well for Charlotte Hode. A member of the family that began developing the town during the 18th century.

A few pages later, we’re in the present day–where we’re introduced to the protagonist (Maya Sinclair), a librarian from the big city who has relocated to Hode’s Hill. She rents a brownstone with much history—including a ghost. That won’t be immediately obvious, but her nightmare-disturbed sleep brings her to the problems of the ancestors of the current neighbors and townspeople. Sinclair has her own history—who came back from a brief death caused by a traffic accident. That made connections with the deceased an unwelcome experience.

There were mysterious deaths in the past—and in the present. Sinclair and the panoply of characters she interacts with eventually solve some of the unexplained issues. In the meantime, the town continues its “Fiend Fest”—the festival in which those so inclined dress up and make up in the monster’s guise that killed people long ago. Lots to explore here. If you like half of those genres, you’ll enjoy this book. Mae Clair brings them to life—and death.

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Review, The Rock of Magus: Code Red at the Vatican

The Rock of Magus (The Jotham Fletcher Mystery Thriller Series #2)The Rock of Magus by Toni Pike
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Former Anglican Rector Jotham Fletcher continues on his quest to deal with the deadly pursuits of the Brotherhood of suspected members of the Simonian Sect. After saving a televangelist whose behavior may have led the Brotherhood to suspect him, Fletcher heads to the Vatican. Shocking events happened one after another–the current Pope dying only months after taking office, a surprising choice installed to replace him and more.

It’s a page-turner, accelerating the pace as it goes along. I finished it in one day, July 9th this year.

Once again, Fletcher and his new assistant, Madena, are at risk. He avoids torture this time in the 2nd book of the series but he is still a suspect in deaths of other clerics. While I know little of the political conflicts of the Catholic church, power and corruption is the same whatever the venue and that’s what keeps things moving. You don’t need to be an insider, you just need to like mysteries, suspense and thrillers. Probably a good idea to start with the first book; if you liked that one, you’ll go for this one. Check out my review of the Magus Covenant, number one in the series. I’m in for the rest of them.

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Review of Allies and Spies by D. Wallace Peach

Allies and Spies (Unraveling the Veil Book 2)Allies and Spies by D. Wallace Peach
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Well worth reading, but one must keep at it–else one must go back a few pages the next time one restarts. Looking forward to the next book.

The second book in the series focuses more intently on three main characters: Alue–nominally an elf; Talin–a changeling; and Naj–a half-breed goblin/elf. Friends and enemies; trusted and detested–depending on which chapter or episode they travel through. The disparate races are evolving some of the time–especially the three.

Now and then, we get a brief time with Kalann il Drakk–First of Chaos, who lives up to his name as evil behind the scene. Is Kalann the cause of quakes, deaths and disappearance among the three races? Or is it a faction among one or more? Revealing that is left for the final book in the trilogy.

It’s challenging to keep track of who’s doing what to whom. Sometimes they’re angry with one another or causing problems with each other. Other times they’re helpful–rescuing or saving each other’s lives.

This may seem a peculiar observation about the races with varying powers and intentions in this fantasy, but the story’s conflicts among the groups reminds me of the cultural and political divides among populations in the world. While humans don’t have the characteristics of the book’s races, they certainly blame others for the problems they experience and often attempt to dominate or oppress those different from themselves and their own races or political cliques.

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Review of Wreck of the Lanternfish

Belatedly, I finally finished the third book in C.S. Boyack’s Lanternfish trilogy last month, THREE YEARS after reading the first two books in this wonderful series.

Wreck of the Lanternfish (The Lanternfish #3)Wreck of the Lanternfish by C.S. Boyack
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

It’s been so long since reading the second book, that it took a great effort to get back into this one wrapping the saga up! Obstacles arose to get it done, which had nothing to do with the book itself. But my advice to others and a reminder to myself–no matter what, don’t leave such a gap in time between reading the next book in a series!

There are so MANY characters–a bunch who are odd in themselves and some that are decidedly paranormal–like the sentient roots (known as “modders”) in the story. Or the evil Fulminites, including monks that can explode themselves to harm others. But, if the author can keep track, it’s up to the reader to keep up.

A good, anticlimactic happy ending–earned by the protagonist along with his family friends. What else could you expect if you read the first two. Read the trilogy; it’s worth your time if you like fantasy, adventure, paranormal and humorous events. You will enjoy them all. Just don’t read this book alone; it will make little sense.

If you want to know more about the first two books in the trilogy, here are links to my reviews of the first book: The Voyage of the Lanternfish on my Views blog and the second book, H.M.S Lanternfish only on Goodreads.

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Pink Floyd–Live in 1975

The Wish You Were Here Tour!

The concert came after my first year at Georgetown Law Center. Like me, the upperclassman who led our law club (an intro to 1st year students on how to do legal research, etc.) was a big Pink Floyd fan. He got us tickets for Floyd on June 10, 1975, at the Capital Centre in Landover, Maryland—just outside Washington, DC. We had seats high on the sides of the arena. Of course, we were high anyway—nothing to do with the altitude, more on that later.

The staging and the props were stupendous, but we were there for the music. Like “Welcome to the Machine,” “Have a Cigar,” “Wish You Were Here,” the eponymous title of the album and the tour. The big hit, of course, beingShine On You Crazy Diamondwith its multipart instrumental and lyrical homage to Syd Barrett, cofounder of the group. Schizophrenia is difficult even without recreational drugs. The lyrics metaphorically tell the story of what the pressure of performing did to Barrett with his disabilities.

But you don’t need a glossary, do you? Floyd’s psychedelic rock melded lyrics and orchestration better than most groups then and later, too—until the usual dissension among band members (David Gilmour & Roger Waters).

I wish I had been to more Floyd shows. But now I watch and listen to the remastered 1994 PULSE live concert video on YouTube. Without continually watching the images, it’s a great impetus for writing.

It seemed essential to include the the concert episode below in Waiting for Westmoreland, the memoir of how Vietnam became the path to my enlightenment. Not that the Pink Floyd concert story contributed to enlightenment. 

Like me, my mentor smoked dope—so did a substantial majority of attendees. A smoky haze of burning marijuana hung thickly in the air. We were so stoned that the cascade of stairs seemed perilously steep. I hadn’t suffered such spatial distortion since my first time smoking dope in Vietnam. The people nearer the floor appeared the size of ants. The way some of  them scurried around on unseen trails, they might well have been ants. I stayed put, avoiding the challenging descent until the concert’s conclusion. Finding the right seat was itself a challenge for some and a memorable part of the evening.

“Can I see your ticket please?” the usher, with four other concertgoers in tow, asked the first person in my row.


“Can I see your ticket please?” he asked again.


“Can I see your ticket, please?”

“Oh, my ticket. Uh, yeah, here.” The first guy finally put it together.

“You belong in the next section, over there,” said the usher, pointing across the aisle.

“Uh, Ok.”

“Can I see your ticket please?” the usher asked the second guy in the row.


“Can I see your ticket, please?”


“Can I see your ticket, please?”

“Oh, yeah, my ticket. Uh here.” The second guy got it together.

“You belong in the next section, over there.” Said the usher, pointing again across the aisle.

“Can I see your ticket, please?” the usher asked the third guy.

We couldn’t take it anymore and fell out laughing, so I didn’t hear the rest of this scene. Eventually, the patiently insistent usher penetrated the hemp-induced brain-fog of the foursome next to us, replacing them with some slightly less stoned folks.

NOTEs: Five years after the Floyd show, I gave up the weed for thirty years-we had plans for kids coming soon. I tried it again a few times, but it’s too strong now, especially since it has become legal–DAMN! While in law school, I did go to parties with fellow tokers–including the valedictorian from another local DC area law school. There are appellate court judges who smoked it then. Maybe they still do.

BTW: I got my JD from Georgetown in 1977 and passed the bar that year, on the first time.

A Shakespearean Repost

Shakespeare’s Sleep–Elusive for Some

That was a post title from December 2016. Somehow, it sprouted amidst related posts, it seems. Must be time to repost it to new (one could hope) readers–slightly revised.

He died at 52–probably a long life in the 16th century. Still, I must suppose that had Shakespeare lived another 15 years he might have worded these lines from Hamlet a little differently:

“To sleep, perchance to dream.”

Seriously, for most guys over 60 or certainly 65, it’s more like,

To sleep, perchance to pee.

More than once, most nights.

Dreams are fine–entertaining in their way at times. Consider the utility of Macbeth’s sleep:

Knit up the raveled sleave of care” or be “the balm of hurt minds.

But only if it persisted, steadily on course to morning, rather than being somnum interruptus. Just the other night I skipped the ice cream during TV watching. (Dairy products do their magic on the bladder). Only got up twice, nonetheless. Unfortunately, the 2nd came at 5:45. Not so early, but then I retired at 11:30 and didn’t immediately enter into dreamland. I used to get by on 6 1/2 hours of sleep back in the working years–fewer in college. Now the shortfall in

Great nature’s second course,

leaves cobwebs in the brain. Perhaps a spider or two, crawling the interior of the cranium right where attention stops short of being fully paid.

Why isn’t the coffee done yet? Oh, didn’t turn on the #*x$#$% machine. Thankfully, exercise and a shower cleared the head that spent less than its essential time in bed. I determined to be more productive the next day. Clean up for company coming on Thanksgiving, work on the websites, etc. The next night, I hoped, would be the

Chief nourisher in life’s feast,

that along with the turkey.


My Review of Wings of Mayhem

Wings of Mayhem (The Mayhem Series, #1)Wings of Mayhem by Sue Coletta
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

My first book by Sue Coletta that I’ve read. Used to see a lot of her on Google + (I miss that app).

If you liked the Criminal Minds TV show, you’ll like this novel. Well, to be fair, it’s not simply about the brutal nature of the killings nor finding the killer. The author reveals him early on. The police are after the unknown serial killer, but that’s not the dominant part of the story. It’s like this, the protagonist works as a consultant for a police department by day and a cat burglar by night.

She and the killer soon begin a very dangerous interaction. That’s what keeps the story going—her risk of becoming a victim of a man who kills people slowly and displays them for the world to see in public places.

Despite the gore, there is some humor and nascent romance complicated by her role working for the police, some of whom may believe she’s involved with the deaths. Lots of twists, some surprises and only a few red herrings.

The only pause from giving a fifth star in this review is some implausibility I find with elements of the story. I won’t go into them because that would entail spoilers. That won’t keep me from reading more novels in the Mayhem series–which I do plan on doing.

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