Thursday, January 24, 2013



The idea of moving every year or two hovers somewhere between hopelessly impractical and insane to most people—though the U.S. military do it all the time. I guess that rather proves the point.

In fact I was once told by the Secretary of the Army—whom I was interviewing during my Pentagon assignment—that something like 10 percent of the force was in transit at any one time—and therefore unavailable to invade Iraq or do whatever the powers that be had in mind. I found that a mind-boggling figure, though perhaps not so surprising when you consider that the U.S. military maintain something like 1,000 bases throughout the world—and some extraordinary number of golf courses. All those foreign bases cost only $250 billion (or some such) and require only 200,000 plus troops to garrison them. It’s a positive steal.

But should the U.S. have a 1,000 foreign bases in the first place?

Why not if the locals and the U.S. taxpayers don’t mind (and the Chinese who lend us the money to fund all this—because we haven’t the money). Besides, it keeps the generals happy. And generals need to be kept happy because they have the guns.

You see each separate post or base has to have a commander—and that is a job that normally goes to a general. More bases means more jobs for generals, not to mention wanna-be generals—which means most senior officers. The lure of a star is like catnip to a cat. Fundamentally, it’s a form of unemployment relief which is packaged in such a way as to make it acceptable to Republicans. Works like a charm.

But I digress. What I was really working up to was to explain why I thought it would be a good idea for me—the writer. You see, I tend to be creatively stimulated by fresh surroundings so thought it would be a marvelous idea to move on after each book to yet another exotic location or other—get inspired afresh—and then write anew.

My ex was not keen (a common state). She wanted to buy a house and make some money out it (which she did) and then she wanted stability for the kids (she was less successful there).

Being a sweetheart of a man, I acquiesced—as most men do when faced with an intransigent woman—but I have always wondered what my writing life would have been like if I had moved every year or two, from place to place, and from country to country.

Barcelona today! Monte Carlo tomorrow! Sienna in a year or two! And then, perhaps, Buenos Aires! Or Algiers! A writer would need to be desperate not to be able to come up with a plot or two in Algeria. They tell me things happen there.

I guess I’ll never know—or will I?


Orso Clip Art

1 comment:

  1. On moving: Between military and corporate jobs, I made 21 moves in 33 years and when I got to writing towards the end of that cycle, I found it gave me a good perspective on life, people, cultures, religions, et al, plus the later consulting-leturing in places like Malaysia, Indonesia, Amsterdam, Brussels, London, New York City was an added plus.

    For those that can travel and often, and need that experience in order to write the stuff they want to write, is it worth the sacrifice? Each writer must answer that for themselves.

    As for me, I never intended to do it for the future writing experience. I just love traveling, especially to Asia which is the most alive part of the world these days, going back soon for China trip #4.

    I think experiencing capitalism China style and the new-old Russia alone would make for some great background for adventure stories.
    However, you would be surprised to see the big China hand now reaching quietly through economics into Cambodia, Vietnam, Myanmar, and also trying into Thailand. You must go there to get to the heart of that information for stories.