The World’s Smartest Man

Remember when you thought your father was the smartest man in the world? I do. And I remember how I felt the day I found out he wasn’t. I just came right out and asked him if he knew everything. He laughed and said no. I was let down, but somehow I had begun to sense it and was somewhat prepared to accept a slightly more realistic image of the big guy. He was still the best dad in the world, and he held that title for the rest of his life. The way my daughter found out that I didn’t know everything was more abrupt, and my wife was more shocked that day than my little girl was, but not because she suddenly realized I wasn’t the smartest man in the world. She had known it from Day One. This happened in Kendallville, Indiana–a great little Midwestern town. My wife got called in as a substitute teacher that day, so it fell to me to get Katie dressed and off to school. It so happened that Carol was teaching the first grade class that Kate attended. When she walked into the classroom, my wife was horrified. Katie had her dress on backwards. Carol took our little first-grader into the restroom and put the dress on right. She said, “Katie, you know how this dress goes.” “Well, I figured if daddy put it on that way, you must be able to wear it either way.” All I could say was I thought the buttons went in front. I’m pretty sure that was the day that Katie figured it out,...

I still love Major League baseball, but…

I admitted to my email subscribers that I was now a card carrying curmudgeon. I’ve earned it, and I’m going to play the card I’ve been dealt. So, let me start by laying into Major League Baseball, which I have loved since the 1950s. First, a little background. I was the kid who rode his bike up and down the alleys and up and down the blocks, knocking on doors, hollering at open windows, trying to get up a game of baseball in the field behind the American Legion. I was the instigator. But when my Milwaukee Braves were playing the Cubs, whose games I could pick up on the radio (in Northern Indiana) , I was also the kid who could and did spend a whole summer day up in his room listening to a double header on the radio and keeping a scorecard of both games. I used to wonder what the big deal was about speeding up the game; hell, I thought they went too fast. Today I can watch every Braves game on TV since I live in Alabama. But I don’t have the patience to actually sit and watch a whole game. I hit the record button and then come and go as I please. Even if a game is going well, holding my interest, I like to let the recording get ahead a bit, not only to cruise past commercials, but to protect against the dreaded umpire replay consultation–you know, three or four umps standing around wearing headphones for five minutes. I prefer to get the bad news fast, with no drama. So...

Was it the worst of times or the best of times?

“Ask most combat veterans to name the worst experiences of their lives, and they’ll probably tell you it was war. But here’s the confusing part. When you ask them to choose the best experiences of their lives, they’ll usually say it was war, too.” This is the best account I’ve ever read on the topic. It absolutely nails the mindset of my DEATH’S DOOR protagonist, Jesse Yates. http://dailysignal.com/2016/01/06why-soldiers-miss-war/ Share...

Enduring dreams of combat

As a kid growing up in 1950’s small town Indiana, I was proud that my dad had fought in the big war, but I had no idea how much horror, anguish and phyical suffering he must have endured. He’s gone now, so I’ll never know the details, but a few years ago I found some disturbing news in a library book about World War II. I looked up 90th Infantry Division in the index and began going to the pages that mentioned their activity. I was stunned at the number of horrific battles they were in, at the heroism, the significance of their campaigns and at the carnage. I hate that he had to endure it. The 358th Infantry Regiment, 90th Division, put out a booklet that told the story of their march through Europe. It was rather clinical, doing little more than describing where they went and, briefly, what happened there. On one page, though, there was a backward checkmark (dad was left-handed). It was the only mark he made in the booklet, and I’ll never know why he put it there. It was at a paragraph with the heading The Jaws Close, and it read: “After Le Mans, the Division cut north in clouds of dust toward Alencon, following the Second French Armored Division and blocking to the West any effort of the German 7th Army to escape the inevitable and fast closing Falaise Trap.”  Le Mans, Alencon, Falaise–these were names I heard recently while watching a program on the Military Channel about the Allies’ struggle to break out of the Normandy peninsula, and the raw footage...

Keating was a nightmare

In my new novel, Death’s Door, undercover P.I. and ex-Navy SEAL Jesse Yates has a conversation with a suspected hijacker in an Alabama honky-tonk. When the guy nearly jumps out of his skin because somebody tapped him on the shoulder, he recovers and says one word to Yates: “Keating.” Although Yates hadn’t been there, he understood. Combat Outpost Keating was under constant pressure from the Taliban and was the site of one of the worst battles in the Afghanistan war. I was amazed at what I found out about COP Keating. As was often the case, our troops did a hell of a job there, despite a history of bureaucratic bungling. First of all, the camp was located in an almost indefensible location, practically surrounded by steep mountains, crawling with Taliban snipers. When it was finally ordered shut down, there was a long delay in carrying out the order, again, for largely bureaucratic reasons. A report after the major battle blamed a “mindset of imminent closure” for the fact that the outpost’s defenses were never upgraded, despite intelligence reports of a large scale enemy attack. There were 47 attacks in the five months preceding the showdown, 10 of which hat occurred in the previous month. The report also mentioned that senior commanders were “desensitized” the threat of a large scale attack, having heard it so often over the previous months. It sounds sort of like Hillary Clinton and Benhazi. So, once again, U.S. troops fought valiantly despite costly failures up and down the increasingly bureaucratic chain of command. Eight valiant soldiers died in the day-long battled during which our...