THE KINDNESS OF FRIENDS; THE POVERTY, AND THE DIGNITY, OF STRANGERS
When I first visited the U.S., back in the early Seventies, my first port of call was New York. At the time I was a corporate employee, and doing well, so took the view that I should arrive there by helicopter. Frankly, it would have been faster to take a cab to the Waldorf Astoria, because technical difficulties held up my rotary flying machine, but eventually it appeared, and my first sight of New York from my helicopter was as dramatic as I had hoped.
Because of the delays, I was also the only passenger. It adds a certain frisson to arrive under such circumstances. One becomes temporarily delusional. Helicopters have that effect. For brief moments, I entertained the notion that this my helicopter; and it was a large helicopter at that. I think it held 24 passengers, or something of that ilk; and it was almost certainly a Sikorski.
I had hoped we would land on the Pan Am building – a strange wish from someone who suffers severely from vertigo - but the landing site had been re-negotiated (I gather for safety reasons) so we landed down by the Battery instead. It was also more convenient to Wall Street.
When I returned to New York, in the early Nineties, it was under much humbler circumstances. I had made the deliberate decision to leave the corporate life, with all its attendant perks, to become a writer; so my income and expenses dropped like a stone.
This time around, I took a battered cab to Brooklyn to stay with friends. No more helicopter and Waldorf Astoria. I wasn’t broke, but cash was tight.
I had been living in a traditional Irish thatched cottage for years – as I battled with my first book, Games Of The Hangman, so such street skills as I had possessed had atrophied. In fact, the phrase ‘in a state of culture shock’ does not come close to describing my mental condition.
One of the first pieces of advice I received was: “Don’t give to panhandlers.” At the time I followed that advice – more or less.
Twenty years later, I have changed my mind completely. I just came to the view that so many friends had helped me over the years that it would be just plain wrong to spurn the requests of those in need. There and then, I determined I would never turn anyone down who asked – providing they looked in genuine need.
I receive more than a few requests for help because I walk everywhere these days, so am accessible. Beyond that, although I currently live in a comfortable gated enclave by Lake Washington, the immediate neighborhood is predominantly poor and African American. It also has the reputation of being crime-ridden – largely because of some fatal shootings that have taken place in the area.
I walk at least a mile there most evenings - often to the local Safeway – and can only say that my life has been much enriched by the numerous encounters I have had with those in need. I have also learned that the most important thing to recognize under such circumstances is the other person’s dignity, and freedom.
The other day a woman accosted me in Safeway and begged for a few dollars to round out the cost of a meal. She then added: “I’m not going to spend it on drink or anything.”
I smiled at her and said: “Not my business.” And I really don’t think it is.
I don’t wish to sound noble in describing such encounters because the truth is that I benefit from them enormously. It also occurs to me that American society would benefit vastly if we adopted a less judgmental approach to poverty – and, instead focused on just plain helping the less fortunate. Apart from anything else, I have no doubt at all that it would make economic sense. That said, there are many other better reasons for doing the right thing.
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).