THIS BUSINESS OF REMEMBERING… I FORGET WHAT TO DO… I THINK
When I started reading newspapers and magazines seriously – some time in my early teens, or maybe a little earlier - I used to wonder how reporters remembered things (and important things at that). I imagined excellent shorthand, a vast filing system; and rigorous fact-checking.
What can I say! I was young, innocent and idealistic; and recorders were far from common in those days. Since my school was in Yorkshire, England, the first newspaper I read regularly was the Yorkshire Post. I well remember being glued to it during the Suez crisis in 1956. I hungered for information, and back in those days we were not allowed either TV or radio at school. We were at boarding school to work, and play rugby and cricket. We were being educated to become leaders of men; and help run the British Empire. A noble fate, one might say, but the empire was shrinking fast. Besides, I was Irish, and all in favor of countries which wanted independence.
In my late teens, while I was at university in Dublin, I had notions of becoming a journalist so made several friends who worked for Ireland’s leading serious newspaper, The Irish Times. While hanging around there, I looked in vain for reporter’s notebooks filled with meticulous shorthand. Instead, I would see journalists grabbing copy paper, jotting down a few notes during a lengthy meeting, and then crafting a story based upon a general sense of what they had heard. Some care was given to names and similar specific data, but, broadly speaking, there was a huge reliance on short-term memory; and very little on coping meticulously through the files. The news, they all realized was perishable; readers were not too fussy about absolute accuracy; most articles were relatively short (though not by today’s standards); and careful analysis was someone else’s problem. Apart from all that, the Pearl Bar awaited. They were a hard-drinking crew in those days, and probably still are. Such foibles apart, the Irish Times was – and remains – an excellent newspaper (though not without its faults).
I tried to learn shorthand during my first year at university, but was the only male in the class (which was off campus and off my curriculum), and eventually fled through sheer embarrassment. I used to find notes from various women left in my coat, and was too young and inexperienced to know how to handle such attention. Trust me, I learned, but a little too late to avail of such opportunities.
In 1981, when I went to Switzerland to research the fictional background of my hanged victim, I decided the time had come to take this research thing seriously, and invested in two Olympus microcassette recorders and a plug-in loudspeaker. At the time I thought I was being extravagant, but it turned out to be one of the best investments I have ever made. Since then, I have tried other recorders, but have always reverted to Olympus equipment, though now I have switched to digital gear. Highly recommended. And no, I have neither connections nor tie-ins with the company at all. I just have the confidence, gained over decades, that Olympus will deliver terrific sound, and will work.
What I will say is that I find that a recording helps my recall enormously. It also scares Army generals. I was told that when spending time with the 101st Airborne (Air Assault) and found it to be mostly true. Generals live in fear that some indiscreet comment will cost them their command, or their next star. Don’t laugh. Recall what happened to Patton, and, more recently, to General Stanley McChrystal.
Why two machines, you may ask? Well, even the best equipment can break down, and, if it does, it will normally be at the most inconvenient time and place. I would add that really small equipment, apart from being innately vulnerable, tends to get lost with alarming frequency. Pick robust equipment you can see and find. Life in the field is, as they say, different; and I guess you can add brutal.
The illustrated machine is an Olympus LS –100. It may well be more than you need, but good gear is normally worth the price.
One final thing: Practice with your equipment until you can operate it blindfolded and your muscle memory takes over. If you are going to the right places, it will almost certainly have to.
NEWSFLASH! NEW BOOKS ARE ON THEIR WAY AT LAST!
Just so you know, I am on a steady countdown to launch a range of new titles on Amazon, and other major sites, within weeks rather than months. I will provide specific dates when I have them.
I will be launching – over a period of several weeks – three new titles. Thereafter, additional new titles will be appearing at, very roughly, intervals of one every month or two for several months.
The initial titles will be:
- THE BLOOD OF GENERATIONS. This will be the fourth action-packed novel in the Fitzduane series. In it, a survivor of the notorious WW II massacre at Malmerie, France, tries to enlist Fitzduane’s help in tracking down one of the chief perpetrators. That perpetrator, aging but still lethal, now runs one of the largest corporations in the world and has planned revenge against the Allies. In the climax, Fitzduane finds himself fighting over the same blood-soaked ground in Nazi occupied France as his father and mother had experienced in WW II when both were agents who had been infiltrated behind enemy lines to prepare for the June 6 invasion in 1944. Their mission-impossible is to either delay or destroy the formidable and ruthless SS Thousand Year Panzer division. With an intersecting story set both today, and back in 1944, this is a Big Thriller on an epic scale inspired by actual events.
- SATAN’S SMILE. Harry Fremont is a battle-weary scientist turned FBI agent who, for years, has specialized in hunting serial killers. His father is Thurlow Fremont, one of the principal developers of the Hydrogen Bomb. Posted to Livermore, home of the nuclear Livermore National Laboratory, to investigate a series of vicious throat cutting murders, Harry soon discovers that there are other forces at work; and that ‘The Lab’ is the target. Meanwhile, Stonecutter, the master terrorist, is planning a vastly more lethal spectacular event than anyone could have imagined. Distracted by inter-agency politics, and confused by his love for a fellow FBI, agent and his attraction to nuclear scientist Tina Lazaroff, Harry battles against the clock to stop much of California being turned into a nuclear wasteland. In a sentence: Serial killing meets nuclear terrorism.
- HOW EAGLE & CUCKOO SAVE AMERICA: THE BEGINNING. The Council of The Place For Reasonably Good People (where you go after you die if you have been reasonably good) are concerned that the U.S. is in rapid decline so appoint their watcher, Cuckoo, to find a solution. Cuckoo finds that so many Americans have been corrupted by dollar worship and Fast Food, that the only living creature up to the task is Eagle, head of all the eagles – and the very personification of character and integrity. However, Eagle is an eagle so has to know a lot more before he will be up to the task. Accordingly, Cuckoo proceeds to teach him. Meanwhile, the forces of darkness headed by one of Satan’s main agents, determine to destroy Eagle. A hilarious satire combined with an action packed thriller, Eagle & Cuckoo (E&C) may well be one of the funniest, most exciting, books you are ever likely the read; and offers a fascinating perspective on the reality of modern America.
E&C will be a trilogy, albeit each book will be a self-contained story. A self-contained story, from this author’s perspective, has a Beginning, a Middle, and an End; and is satisfying in itself.
- In the HOW EAGLE & CUCKOO SAVE AMERICA: THE BEGINNING, we get to know the characters, see Eagle as he evolves from simple aviator to combat leader, and experience the most hilarious courtroom scene yet written – featuring the Supreme Court and a re-incarnated Clarence Darrow.
- In the HOW EAGLE & CUCKOO SAVE AMERICA: THE CONTEST we follow Eagle as he morphs into human form, develops his political platform, and runs for the presidency.
- In the HOW EAGLE & CUCKOO SAVE AMERICA: THE LEADER we follow Eagle as he is sworn into office and leads the re-building of America with extraordinary success.
Will there be other E&C books? I truly hope so. I have a lot of ideas on that front. But, as always, it all depends upon the market reaction.
Watch this space for the latest details. We, who appear to be doing nothing, are actually surprisingly busy (but are slower at getting out titles than I would like).