Saturday, November 12, 2016

A LITTLE REBELLION NOW AND THEN

Scott Skipper

Copyright 2016

All rights reserved


Epigraph

If you’re not a liberal at twenty, you have no heart.
If you’re not a conservative at forty, you have no brain.

Winston Churchill

I hold it, that a little rebellion, now and then, is a good thing, and as necessary in the political world as storms in the physical.


Thomas Jefferson


Chapter 1


The page was loading at about one pixel per minute. I kept hammering the mouse button knowing it would do no good, but I needed to punish something. Either I needed a new computer or Google did. Then something weird happened that forced me to stare and blink. A black rectangle opened in the center of the page, and there was something being typed across it. It closed in a second and I didn’t get a chance to see what it said. Finally the page loaded and I had control again. It was definitely a “WTF” moment. Lately I’d been having a lot of them.
    I selected and copied the text of an opinion by the Fourth Circuit Court on the president’s latest attempt to sneak another amnesty around Congress, pasted it into a Word document and saved it with the rest of the research I’d been doing for the manuscript I was currently flogging. Then I donned my discipline hat, and focused on the next twenty-five hundred words. At quitting time, I saved it and made a copy on two thumb drives. After that, it was wine time and the FOX news. It was a slow day—only one truck bombing in Baghdad, and not a single beheading.
    Roger arrived at six. I let him into the foyer and stood on my toes to kiss him. He was a head taller than me, which is good because I rarely noticed the bald spot on the crown of his head. That, the gray temples and fine crow’s-feet, was the only concession to age that he’d made since we met in school. I’m too generous. He may have added a few inches around the midsection, but I’m no one to talk. We hadn’t been together all that time. We were an item for several years, and I fully expected to marry the bastard, but he had this thing about commitment—and other women.
    “Help yourself to a drink,” I said.
    “I always do.” He poured a generous two fingers of scotch from the decanter, and refreshed my chardonnay. “There’s nothing cooking. Did I forget that it’s my night to cook?”
     “No, we’re going out for a change.”
    “Okay. Any place special?”
    “Not really. We’ll take the trolley to the Gaslight District and pick some place that isn’t crowded.”
    “Sounds good. How was your day?”
    “Fine, except something weird happened.”
    “What’s that?”
    I took a sip of wine and thought about how to describe it. “I was waiting for a webpage that was taking forever to load, and a little black window opened in the middle of the screen. Somebody was typing something on it.”
    “Probably just an ad loading.”
    “No, this was different. What do you call that window where you go to get your IP address?”
    “Command prompt?”
    “Yeah, that’s it. This looked like the command prompt.”
    “And you didn’t open it by mistake?”
    “I don’t know how to open it.”
    “You didn’t see it before or after that?”
    “Nope.”
    “Hmm, well, let’s open it and see.” He rose and carried his drink to the computer desk. Without sitting he entered ‘Command prompt’ in the start menu search box, and the little window opened in the center of the screen. Ghostly fingers were typing something after ‘C/Users/Kate>’, but the window closed before either of us could read it. “Well, that was odd.”
    “It’s downright spooky. Do you think somebody has hacked my computer?”
    “You’ve got anti-malware, don’t you?”
    “Of course I do—the best. I subscribe to that Russian outfit.”
    “Did you ever give somebody remote access to your computer?”
    “What do you mean?”
    “You know, like when you give the guy in India control of your computer because you can’t figure out how to get something to work.”
    “I don’t think so.”
    “Well, my dear, it looks like somebody has access to your computer, and they don’t want you to see what they’re doing.”
    That gave me a chill. “That’s pretty creepy. What should I do?”
    “Turn it off and don’t use it.”
    “You do know that I use that computer to make my living?”
    “Hell, Kate, if you never wrote another word in your life, you’d die a rich woman.”
    “That’s not the point. I’m a compulsive writer.”
    “You’re ’pulsive, all right.”
    “What do you mean ’pulsive’?”
    “Com, im and re.”
    I punched him in the shoulder. “Get out of the way and let me shut it down.” I took the chair and clicked the ‘Start’ button, then the ‘Shutdown’ button. The screen went blue, and the loopy little dots started whirling. A few seconds later the last screen refreshed. “Crap,” I said, “I’ll try again.” I got the same result.
    “Try the task manager,” Roger said.
    “What’s that?”
    “Control, alt, delete.”
    “Oh, yeah.” The task manager window opened, and I manually closed all the running programs, but the shutdown button never appeared.
    He said, “So, push the power button. All your data is saved, and the programs closed.”
    I did, and in a moment, the screen went black. “What am I going to do?”
    “I’ll make a call in the morning, and get you the number of a guy who can figure it out.”
    “Okay, let’s eat.”

After a heavy meal and much wine, we wobbled back to the condo. Roger took me by the elbow and tried to steer me directly into the bedroom. “Whoa, stud, I’m way too full to let you play trampoline tonight. You’ll have to wait until morning.”
    “I figured as much. That was your evil plan all along, wasn’t it?”
    “Hey, why is there a light in the office?” I looked around the jamb and saw the screen saver on the monitor. “Didn’t I do a hard shutdown?”
    “I saw you do it.”
    “Well, the frigging thing turned itself back on.”
    “Pull the plug, or the damn thing might kill us in our sleep.”
    “This is getting scary,” I said, and crawled on my knees under the desk. I groped for the power cord behind the tower and wiggled it until it came free. I listened to the fan whir to a halt. “Okay, the beast is dead.”
    “Let’s hope.”
    “If it plugs itself back in, I’m going to shoot it.”
    “That’s what I’d do. Now, how can you be too full after we walked all the way from the trolley stop—uphill?”
    Roger still had the libido he had twenty years ago—or thought he did. He swore he didn’t take pills for it. Me? I was content to surrender to the sexual vacuum of post-menopause, but he would get so morose, I’d have to humor him. “We walked five blocks. Forget it. If you get the geek’s number in the morning, I’ll do you a favor.”
    In the morning with the favor behind me, and Roger contented again, he called somebody and wrote a number on the pad by the phone. After he showered and was out the door, I dialed it. A sleepy voice said, “Yeello.”
    I said, “Hello, is this the computer service?”
    “Who wants to know?”
    “My name is Kate Baker. Do you work on computers?”
    “Hardware or software?”
    “Soft, I guess. I think I’ve been hacked.”
    “Hundred dollars an hour. Starts when I leave home. Where are you?”
    “Mission Hills.”
    “You’re in luck. Only take me an hour to get there. What’s your address?”
    I gave him the address, ended the call and made sure my revolver was loaded. An hour later the doorbell rang. He wasn’t as grungy looking as I expected.
    He said, “Hi, I’m Nick. You got any coffee?”
    “Is espresso okay?”
    “Great. Make it a double. Where’s the computer?”
    I showed him. “I had to unplug it. It came back on by itself.”
    “Huh. Give me a few minutes of quiet.” He began to crawl under the desk.
    “I’ll get your coffee.” When I sat the cup by his elbow, he was engrossed in a black screen crowded with white characters. They were gibberish to me. “What’s all that?”
    “Shh.” He took a small, noisy sip of the thick coffee, and said, “Have you checked your bank accounts since this happened?”
    “Oh, shit. I didn’t think of that.”
    “Well, duh. What other reason would somebody want to hack a rich lady who writes dirty books?”
    “I don’t write dirty books.”
    “Whatever.”
    “Get out of the way and let me check my accounts.”
    “If they got into your accounts, it’s way too late now. Don’t you have a phone or tablet you can use to check them on?”
    “Oh, yeah. I’ll be right back.” I ran to the bedroom and looked at my bank accounts and investments on my phone. Everything was intact.
    When I returned to the office and told him, he said, “So, for what other reason would somebody hack you?”
    “So, I’m definitely hacked?”
    “Yeah, by the best. Maybe to steal your next book?”
    “That’s not very likely. I’ve got a copyright.”
    “So, if you don’t write porn, what do you call it?”
    “Satire.”
    “So, who do you make fun of?”
    “Anybody who deserves it. Mainly the government.”
    “Well, I’d say we’re definitely dealing with a government here.”
    “Oh, shit. Whose government?”
    “No way to tell. They’re using the TOR browser. IP address is in the middle of the ocean, but if I were to guess, I’d say it’s ours.”
    “So, how do I get rid of them?”
    Nick sat back and cradled the cup in both hands. He belched lightly, and said, “I don’t think you can.”
    I felt a jolt. “What?”
    “Look, if you get a new computer, router, IP address, email account, new phone number and change your name, they’ll just find you again. For whatever reason, somebody is watching you.”
    “You think my phone’s tapped?”
    He made a disgusted face. “Everybody’s phone’s tapped, but somebody is paying attention to you. They’re listening to your calls, reading your email and spying on your browsing habits. You ever look at porn?”
    “Hell, no.”
    “That probably wouldn’t interest them anyway. What do you do online?”
    “I follow political events, and do research for my novels.”
    “Well, you got somebody pissed.”
    “What do you think they want?”
    “I’d say to shut you up.”

Chapter 2


When I got rid of young Nick, I opened the bottom drawer of my file cabinet. In the very back the folders were yellow and brittle. What I wanted was still there. It was a tabloid size newspaper. The masthead proclaimed it ‘The Toad.’ As I read the nearly fifty-year-old article, I became Katie again—it was still Katie Baker. I retook my maiden name after my divorce.

May 2, 1970

May was balmy in Cleveland that Saturday night. Roger took me to a bar to listen to music and drink beer. Roger was old enough to order the hard stuff. I had to settle for three-two beer, but when I drained half of my glass, he’d pour his beer into it, and go get another. The band made up for dubious talent with volume, and it was impossible to talk except during their breaks.
    In the relative quiet, Roger asked, “Do you have enough money for the next edition?”
    “Yeah, barely. Wally says since his connection got busted he hasn’t been able to score.” Wally was the silent backer of The Toad. He taught law at Case Western Reserve and sold dope on the side. He used the money from dealing to fund our underground newspaper.
    The band adjourned to the bar, and the club’s owner mounted the stage. He adjusted the singer’s microphone and motioned for silence. “Listen up, people. WMMS just announced that the protesters against sending troops to Cambodia set fire to the ROTC building on the Kent State Campus.”
    A cheer erupted in the crowded bar. I didn’t hesitate to join the clapping and whistling.
    The owner waited for the noise to settle. “They plan another protest tomorrow at noon, if anybody can get down there to join them. Governor Rhodes called out the National Guard, so they need all the support they can get. Smash the state!” He raised his fist as he quit the stage and the noise level spiked again.
    “I’ve got to go cover that,” I shouted in Roger’s ear. “Will you drive me, or do I have to hitchhike?”
    “I’ll take you. We can spend the night with my cousin, Bill, in Akron.”
    “Is he still living with that crazy bitch?”
    “Wanda? Yeah, as far as I know.”
    “Great. Bring your stash. I don’t want to be conscious when I’m around her.”
    We left after the next set and strolled along Coventry Road. Cleveland Heights buzzed on the warm Saturday night. Record Revolution was packed, and Jimi Hendrix pulsed from the open entrance of the head shop next door. I hesitated on the corner and looked at the traffic. “Narks everywhere tonight,” I said.
    “Regular pigs, too. They’re uptight about Kent.”
    “Let’s get off the street.”
    Roger’s apartment on Lancashire Road was around the corner, and a few doors west of Record Revolution—he was a regular customer. His second story unit was tiny. To increase rental income, landlords in the area partitioned the once spacious apartments. Roger had a sitting room furnished with a second hand couch and a beanbag chair, a closet of a kitchen that he never used, a bathroom with a ball and claw tub retrofitted with a showerhead, and a bedroom that almost accommodated his double bed and nightstand. House rules forbade any color on the walls, so he plastered them with posters of rock bands and psychedelic art. The first things he did was pull the chain on his black light and push the switch on the lava lamp on the crate he used for an end table.
    “What do you want to hear?” I asked as I leafed through the stack of albums leaning against the wall.
    “Strange Days,” he said while rolling a joint on the coffee table.
    “Why don’t you just bolt that to your turntable, and sell the rest of these?”
    “’Cause I like to hear both sides.”
    “While we’re in Akron, let’s find Snoddy and try to score some hash.” I preferred hash to pot, and my geeky friend, Snoddy, could find it no matter how dry things got. He was the kind of freak who only owned one pair of jeans, and I swore, if you could dissolve the cotton, you’d have an ounce of hash. I took a chest-full of smoke and held it.
    “You got any money?” he asked. I shook my head. “Then I’ll have to go see my mom in the morning.”
    I coughed and had to exhale. “Will she give you some?”
    “If Dad’s not there.”
    “Good, that means I can sleep late.” The mysterious music slowed as the dope expanded in my brain. Roger took me by the hand, and led me to his bed.

Sunday morning was bright and clear. While Roger went to beg money from his mother, I showered and made a cup of his terrible instant coffee, which I drank while I combed the knots from my hair. It was getting a little ratty at the ends, and I wondered if I trusted Roger to trim it. His bullshit story netted him ten dollars, which was just enough for a gram of hash.
    “Do you have gas money?” I asked.
    “I’ve got five bucks, and we’re going to have to eat.”
    “Then we’ll have to swing by Wally’s. He’ll give me an advance on expenses.”
    Wally answered the door in his underpants. “About damned time you surfaced. Did you hear what happened last night?”
    I said, “Cool it, Wally. We’re on our way to Kent right now, but we need gas money.”
    He gave me a five, and we started on the fifty mile drive to the little college town that was on fire over Nixon’s escalating the war that everybody hated. Guardsmen in Jeeps and armored personnel carriers lolled and shot the shit in front of public buildings until we were out of town. They were no older than us, but they looked thuggish and dull, the kind of guys we called ‘straights’ because they hated our lifestyle, and didn’t get stoned.
    I said, “Shit, the pigs are everywhere.”
    “What if we can’t get into Kent?”
    “I wish I had real press credentials.”
    When we arrived, Roger parked on Main Street close to the campus. Most of the shops were boarded, and some had been smudged by fire. I stashed my notebook and camera in my big leather bag with a macramé strap, and we approached the campus through a residential neighborhood hoping to find a way into it without meeting any cops.
    No luck. “Let’s see some ID,” the cop demanded.
    “We went to breakfast. You don’t need ID to eat breakfast. As far as I know, this is still a free country,” I said kind of bitchy.
    “You’re not getting on campus without student ID,” he said.
    Roger said, “You can’t keep us out of our dorms. That’s where we live.”
    “Prove you’re students.”
    I said, “Let me in alone, and I’ll come back with our ID.” Roger gave me a shitty look, but I was the journalist. He could wait for me.
    “No, dice, girl. Turn around and beat it.”
    I gave him my most indignant look. “Hey, Adolph, we’re a couple of students trying to get back to our dorms so we can study. What’s your problem?”
    A guy on a bicycle approached from the opposite direction. He said, “It’s okay, officer. She’s in my English class, and he’s in ROTC.”
    The cop looked suspicious and confused. He waved us onto the campus with a disgusted look. I said, “Thanks, man,” to the stranger, and we walked away from the cop. “They hire the best and the brightest, don’t they?” Roger's shoulder length hair sure didn't make him look like the ROTC type.
    Roger said, “Good thing for us.”
    Things were pretty weird on Sunday. The National Guard had Jeeps and armored personnel carriers all over the campus, but they mingled with some of the kids. They were particularly attracted to the braless girls. Leaflets were everywhere that declared a state of emergency, and outlawed any outdoor gatherings, whether peaceful or otherwise. The most persistent rumor was that there would be an organized protest at noon Monday.
    Somebody announced a press conference was on TV, given by our asshole governor, James Rhodes. Roger and I went into a dorm to see it. Rhodes was in rare form, banging on the table, saying everyone in Ohio was in danger and that the Weather Underground and Students for a Democratic Society were supplying guns to the protesters. I went back outside, and found one of the organizers. He was familiar with The Toad, and agreed to answer some questions.
    “Bullshit,” he said, “there are exactly zero members of the Weather Underground here, and if there are any SDS on this campus, I don’t know about them.”
    I asked, “Do you have anything planned for tonight?”
    “Not that I know about.”
    I thanked him, and said to Roger, “Do you want to go to Bill’s, and come back tomorrow?”
    “This is your trip. I’m only the driver.”
    “It’s kind of boring here. If we hear about something happening, we can always come back.”
    “Suits me.”

Monday the protesters were on the Commons—about an even mix of guys and girls. The soldiers had already given up on tear gas because of the wind and the guys who just threw the canisters back at them. They also threw rocks. An officer in a Jeep bellowed through a bullhorn as he read the Ohio Riot Act. That was a formality that meant anybody could be arrested if they didn’t disperse. We’d all heard it before.
    I began snapping pictures and noticed a group of guardsmen separated themselves from the rest and appeared to be discussing something. One of them knelt on one knee and panned his rifle across the crowd, then he stood and walked away from the others. He headed for a building on the edge of the Commons.
    I said, “Follow that guy. He’s up to something.” I kept taking pictures of him as he entered the building. It had a plaque by the door that said it was Johnson Hall. A few moments later I saw him again on the roof. His head and arms appeared above the parapet without his helmet. He aimed his gun over the heads of the milling guardsmen and he fired one shot. Immediately the soldiers wheeled toward the protesters fifty or sixty feet from them. The front line dropped to one knee and commenced firing. Those behind them fired over the heads of the kneeling shooters. The cacophony lasted forever, although later witnesses said it was fifteen seconds.
    Roger dragged me to the grass and covered me. By the time I crawled from under him, the only sound was the thumping of helicopter rotors and screaming. Faintly, in the distance we could hear sirens.
    “Let’s get the hell outta here before they seal the place,” Roger said.
    We began running, and in the ensuing chaos, managed to get off campus.
    “I’ve got to call Wally,” I said.
    “What for?”
    “He can get David and Debbie started on a special edition.”
    I found a phone booth and dropped a dime into the slot. Instead of a dial tone, I heard, “Due to the declaration of martial law, phone service has been suspended until further notice.” I felt my insides drop as the recorded message repeated.

Watch for the release of A Little Rebellion Now and Then at all your favorite eBook retailers.

Friday, November 11, 2016

NiseiNisei by JJ White

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


Bobby Takahashi had three passions, sketching, joining the navy and a redhead named Mary O’Connor. Unfortunately, although Mary loved him, her father forbade their relationship, the navy was off limits to a Japanese-American from Hawaii and a sketch that he made of the battleships at Pearl Harbor fell into the hands of the Japanese. The whole Takahashi family, and many others, found themselves in internment camps in California immediately after the attack on Pearl Harbor. Bobby, real name Hideo, had more trouble than that. His father promised him in an arranged marriage to an older, and fallen, geisha from Hiroshima. An aspiring sumo wrestler named Eddie also bullied him from high school to the battlefields of Europe. Because Bobby’s sketch of the harbor was found in the cockpits of several Japanese zeros shot down during the raid, he was separated from his mother and unwanted spouse, and sent to a high security camp near the Oregon border. Through a tragic and convoluted chain of events, he was given the choice of joining the army or going to jail. Before shipping out to basic training in Mississippi, he returned to Hawaii where he had a brief affair with his true love who had since married a white naval officer. She gets pregnant, as does Bobby’s sluttish wife who screwed Bobby’s best friend back in the internment camp. When the Japanese-American regiment arrived in Italy, their military accomplishments were unparalleled. Bobby separated from the army after being wounded six times and attaining the rank of captain.

Confused? Well, maybe a little, but Nisei is a superbly crafted book told in the format of a first person memoir discovered by that son conceived with the redhead but raised by the geisha who reads it on the eve of his intended suicide. Oh, yes, the story is complex, but it is a tale of redemption. The prose is an engaging Hawaiian jargon. The pace is never slow although the plot is complex and winding. J.J. White deserves kudos for a marvelous recounting of the plight of loyal Japanese-Americans during the Second World War. I loved this book and cannot recommend it more strongly.

73,600 words

$3.99

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Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Seasonal Reading

Creepy Shorts by Lisa M Griffiths

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


Here are monsters under the bed, the disembodied hand in the closet, an evil talisman, a malignant teddy bear and a school bus ride to the River Styx. These stories are a delight for young adults and old codgers as well. They relate the childhood angst lingering in the souls of all of us, and those indiscretions we all committed. Of course, we shouldn’t talk to strangers, of course we shouldn’t sneak into R rate horror movies, we all knew better than to take a shortcut through the vacant lot, but we all did it and there were consequences. These stories are crafted with wonderful twists and turns—who knew Zeus could drive the bus?

Lisa Griffiths has a knack for the unnatural. She filled Creepy Shorts with some great demons and ghouls. Her prose has a light, enchanting storytelling quality to it. The characters are genuinely crafted. They are real people in unreal situations. She is good with the monsters as well. Read Creepy Shorts but don’t turn out the light.

Lisa is a member of the La Verne Writers' Group.

$2.99 only at Amazon so far.

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Sunday, October 23, 2016

Redemption CoveRedemption Cove by David Calder

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


Coding ace, Ben Adams, raced headlong into the abyss. Leaving the bar in a Bellevue, Washington snowstorm, too drunk to drive, he was tee boned by an SUV. Waking in the hospital, he found himself in a body cast, uncertain he would ever walk again. A little mail delivered to the hospital revealed that his wife had divorced him, and a visit from his boss informed him that he’d been canned. During weeks of therapy, both physical and psychological, he managed to walk again, and to start thinking about how to cope with the future. Another piece of mail was his mother’s will. It gave him ownership of a cabin on a lake in British Columbia, and he made the happy discovery that his severance package contained a half million dollars in stock options. With his course of action obvious, Ben retired to the lakeside cabin to seek redemption.

The first thing he discovers at Laketown, BC, is that a mysterious tenant had recently vacated the cabin and that the real estate agents who managed the rental owe him a substantial sum. When Ben tries to transfer the windfall from the stock options to a local bank, he learns that the Security and Exchange Commission has frozen his account. The next dilemma that confronts him is the likelihood that his property is on Indian land and he will have to vacate. That is, if the hostile Indians don’t kill him first.

Redemption Cove is a marvelously crafted tale with loads of drama, intrigue and suspense. In addition to the aforementioned hostile Indians and legal trouble, there is a tragic love affair, a hungry grizzly bear, a wounded goose and the specter of hidden treasure stashed by Ben’s abusive father. David Calder has put together a masterful puzzle, and he threatens to keep the ball rolling with a sequel. This reader for one hopes that he hurries. Redemption Cove is a must read—don’t miss it.

Kindle price $4.99


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Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Crime and Corruption

Joseph Morgan is the proverbial big fish in the small pond of Overton, Colorado. He has power and he wants more. His youngest son is police chief by Joseph’s decree and now Jack is running for county commissioner. Vegetarian rancher, Frank Jarret is running against him. Chief Jack Morgan receives an order from his father to discredit Frank shortly before the election. Frank is in Durango on business when Jack Morgan takes several deputies to Frank’s Lazy J ranch with the intention of planting two kilos of cocaine there. Instead, Jack claims that Emily Jarret produced a gun and he began firing. This excites the deputies to open fire as well. When the smoke clears, Emily and daughter, Katy, are dead. Two years later, Jack Morgan, in hiding under an alias, is found dead in his rare book store. Two of the deputies involved are found dead, Frank Jarret has vanished and the new police chief, Marcia Williams, must find the killer.


The Seventh Stage is a brilliantly executed crime story. The pace develops the suspense in a highly polished way. All characters are artfully fleshed and the scene shifts elevate the tension. Mr. Nichols’ prose flows smoothly as does his dialogue. A skillful eye renders the settings so that the stark beauty of southwestern Colorado is alive on the pages. The reader will not guess the outcome as the lady police chief traces her leads. This reader strongly recommends The Seventh Stage.

The Seventh Stage is currently unavailable at Amazon. I got my copy from the author. When it becomes available, it's a must read.

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Grandpa Wasn't Crazy After All

Nick couldn’t believe his luck when a hot blond came onto him. When something seems too good to be true, it usually isn’t. Holly had a motive—she was being manipulated by her psycho sister, Hanna. Holly and Hanna’s father worked with Nick’s grandpa on an underground bunker in the days of President Kennedy when the world teetered on the brink of Armageddon. Both men were silenced by the government, but not before her father leaked to Hanna the fact of a fortune in gold bullion hidden in the secret tunnels. Nick’s grandpa was supposed to have drawn a map of where the gold was stashed, and Hanna was determined to get it no matter who she had to kill, including her sister and Nick.


Underground is a fast-paced story with a compelling plot and excellent character development. Mr. Chaus’ prose is smooth and flowing. The historical references are on the mark, and the technology is accurate. The reader will vividly visualize the scenes. Underground is a quick read, and one you won’t want to set aside.

$4.99

Saturday, September 24, 2016

WTF

Rum, the lash and sodomy, according to Jim’s father, that was all there was to the Australian navy. Nevertheless, Jim found himself in the engine room of a destroyer about to be rammed amidships by the aircraft carrier Melbourne. The impact throws Jim so violently that it breaks his leg. The ship is split in two and the stern is sinking with the propellers in the air. Jim’s mate, Charlie, carries him to a lifeboat, and returns to rescue the hated petty officer still trapped in the engine room. The stern sinks before Charlie can return to the deck. When released from the hospital, Jim goes to console Charlie’s wife, Big Red. There he meets Jenny who is also lending comfort to the widow and new mother. After much dithering, the government convenes a Royal Investigation into the loss of eighty-two men under the command of Drunken Duncan, captain of the lost destroyer. Jenny’s younger brother is trying to evade the draft, and her mother is campaigning against Australia’s involvement in the Vietnam War. Jim is nominated to officer training school, and eventually finds himself combatting underwater saboteurs in the Mekong River where he is forced to garrote a teenaged Viet Cong soldier attaching limpet mines to the hull of a ship.


This complex story is propelled by Mr. Regan’s intimate knowledge of all things relating to the Australian navy. Written in Australian English, the American reader will enjoy the quirky terminology, and occasionally be forced to consult reference material for a definition. My sketchy description above only touches on a fraction of the story. Although 91,000 words—not quite epic length—WTF is an epic tale that is based on true events. Not being conversant with Vietnam era Australian history, I cannot say which things are true and which are not, but the weight of the narration is certainly convincing. This is one of the best books I’ve read in a very long time. Do yourself a favor, read it. It’s also a bargain. John Regan should raise his price.

I am unable to do as much for this writer as I would like. WTF was free at Smashwords when I downloaded it. It is $1.99 now and Smashwords won't let me review it unless I buy a copy. (I shouldn't be such a miser). It isn't available on Amazon US, so Goodreads can't find it. I did review it on Amazon AU. Your bet to buy a copy is Smashwords.