Sunday, January 20, 2013



File:Conamara, Ireland.jpg

I often wonder about the extent to which our thoughts are conditioned—in contrast to whether they are original. I have to say, based upon observation, that conditioning wins out by a wide margin.

If true, such a conclusion has all kinds of implications—mostly disturbing. And it also raises serious questions about free will? Religion makes a great feature of free will; but, if we are as manipulated to the extent I believe we are, then free will has, at best, a supporting role. So, in essence, we are being conditioned to believe we have free will.

Who says the gods don’t have a sense of humor!

These thoughts arose because I have been thinking about the view from this apartment. I’m leaving the place shortly; and, after hearing one of the new owners rave (to excess) about the view,  I have been wondering: Will I miss the view?

The apartment, itself, is another matter. It has been an excellent place to work from for the last couple of years—and, above all, quiet. As to the view, apart from the fact that it has been rather pleasant to be high up, it has left me unmoved.

In direct line of sight, it consists of some docks full of leisure craft. and a rather unattractive apartment building. True, Lake Washington is to my right, if I go out onto the balcony—chilly this time of year—but the wonders of Lake Washington leave me unmoved. It has none of the majesty and endless variety of the sea, nor the beauty of the small Irish lakes that dot Connemara in the West of Ireland. I first encountered them while on a walking tour during my early teems, and have returned many times to contemplate them—and I never cease to wonder. That part of the West is a wild land, and uniquely wonderful. In fact, as far as I am concerned, it is magic.

Dun Aengus on Inishmore, Aran Islands Galway Bay IrelandMy late (and very special) friend, Niall Fallon, lived in that part of the world for some years—he was writing a book on the Spanish Armada amongst other things—and was less than flattering about the reality of day-to-day life in Connemara. Overall, he had a tough time making a living there. I seem to recall, he bred dogs there as well. We writers will try anything. Either way, it was not a successful time for him, though his book was excellent. He was not only a fine man, but an excellent writer.

Nonetheless, after I had fallen in love with the Aran Islands as well, I based the protagonist of my first three books, Hugo Fitzduane, in that part of the world—albeit just off the coast on his very own (entirely fictional) island—and gave him an old Norman keep to live in into the bargain. A plain keep is a rectangular stone tower—normally a statement of dominance over a given area of land, and preferably within signaling distance of a neighbor who could send help if needed. It was a simple, but extremely powerful, system of control, and it underpinned the feudal system.

In Fitzduane’s case, his keep has been somewhat expanded to a size many would refer to as a castle—but it remains relatively small. This entirely fictional place is now as real to me as if it actually exists. I based it on several castles; but, arguably, the nearest to my mental model is Dunguaire. However, there are a number of distinct differences. The keep of Duncleeve (Fitzduane’s castle) has a flat roof—or fighting platform. Secondly, it is taller. Thirdly, it has a larger bawn or walled courtyard. And fourthly, it has a larger gatehouse complete with a portcullis. Still, Dunguaire does convey the general idea.

Was I conditioned to take to that wild, bleak, wind-and-rain swept, and stunningly beautiful part of the world—or did I react spontaneously?

My ego (which I try and regard with some skepticism, since it is scarcely unbiased) says I certainly was not conditioned—my parents, for instance, were not remotely interested in that part of the world, nor were any of my relations and mentors—but I guess I’ll never know. Certainly, I was impelled to visit the West on that first walking holiday for some reason.


These days, while Fitzduane and his island are forever in my mind, my own favorite locations are in South West France (Perigord Pourpre and Perigord Noir). The area was the scene of great contention between the English and the French back in the Middle Ages, and it is not hard to see why.

As best I can determine it, Perigord and Aquitaine overlap—which makes life very confusing. Aquitaine, which includes a whole chunk of the French Atlantic coast, was a kingdom in its day—and bordered on Spain.

I have thought of either living there—or at least spending some months there every year.

Much of my latest Fitzduane book, THE BLOOD OF GENERATIONS, is set there. It is the fourth in the series.

Will there be more Fitzduane books?  I like to think so. I have written four so far. Seven seems a nice round total because I want to write other books as well. Nonetheless, it has been put to me—many times—that  since Fitzduane hasn’t taken off like James Bond, I should abandon him.

Perhaps so, if money was my only goal. But it is not. The truth is that I am very fond of my fictional protagonist, have spent a great deal of time in his company, regard him as a fundamentally decent man (if somewhat prone to be dragged into adventures of some violence), and don’t regret growing old in his company. Beyond that, many of those readers who have discovered him, not only positively long for his return, but have said so in writing—and they tend to be impassioned.

Two  impossible dreams? In these cases, I look forward to finding out.

File:Aquitaine in France.svg

The Lion in WinterThe above is Aquitaine.

Think Eleanor of Aquitaine who had an impressively contentious marriage to Henry II of England.

See also that marvelous movie The Lion In Winter starring Peter O’Toole and Katherine Hepburn. The movie makes a great deal more sense if one knows the historical background. Eleanor was a major historical figure—and Aquitaine was worth fighting for. That, they certainly did.


 Orso Clip Art



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