20 November 2014

David Dean: "The Purple Robe"

by Eve Fisher

What if you found out there was a place where miracles really happened?  Deep in the jungle, far away from any prying eyes.  Would you go?  And why?  Is it a miracle you want, or a miracle you fear?  Do you need to ask for it, or to stop it?  What is it that you want?  And what would you do if you found out it was all true...  but there is a price?  David Dean's new thriller, The Purple Robe, offers a wide range of answers to these questions and more.

The small quiet Yucatan town of Progreso, on the Gulf of Mexico, far from the tourist hot-spots, is under the bewildered care of young Father Pablo, awkward, uncertain and with a little bit of a drinking problem.  (They don't call him Father Tomato for nothing.)  His acolytes don't respect him; his congregation is dwindling; and then there are Dona Marisa Elena Saenz, a/k/a La Viuda Negra (the Black Widow), and the local police Captain Barrera, two people who always manage to make him feel...  inadequate, if not downright wrong.

Ironically, although Dona Marisa and Captain Barrera have nothing in common, both express a concern about the missing Alcante boy, some say lame, all say drug-addicted, and last spotted out at a rotting plantation in the jungle, perhaps walking...  Perhaps he's joined the insurrectos; perhaps he's found something else.  There are rumors about a ruined place with a holy relic, a secret site with secret pilgrimages:  much to Father Pablo's chagrin, the Archbishop asks him to investigate.  But where? How?  His main clue is a leaflet, given to him on a bus by a woman named Veronica:


"Ask and ye shall receive":  
the only words underneath a wood engraving of Jesus 
beaten and bloody in a purple robe; 
surrounded by Mayan warriors instead of Roman centurions.  


Veronica takes him deep into the jungle, to a nightmare of a plantation, the disintegrating mansion of a Yucatan Miss Havisham, Dona Josefa, a woman as old as time and either a mystic or mad, who holds a relic that she claims is a fragment of the purple robe worn by Christ at his trial.  Surrounded by Mayan guards, and ever-increasing numbers of pilgrims, including two wealthy Norte Americanos, Father Pablo finds himself in a world in which hope, faith, need, and desperation make people willing to do anything to achieve what they want:  healing, power, prayer, control, hope, fear, and even death.  

Especially if someone is willing to do anything to stop another miracle from happening...

The Purple Robe is a Catholic fable, an evocation of the Yucatan, a religious thriller, and quite a ride. And it's worth thinking about:  What if you found out there was a place where miracles really happened?  Deep in the jungle, far away from any prying eyes.  Would you go?  And why?

19 November 2014

Hold the anchovies

by Robert Lopresti

When I saw that someone was working on an "Anthology of Cozy Noir" my first thought was that that was the craziest idea I had heard in a while.

My second thought was "Hey! I've got a story that would fit there."

The fact that those two thoughts fit so closely together may explain why I have not quit my day job to live off my royalties yet.

Be that as it may, Andrew MacRae apparently agreed with my second thought because he bought my story and gave it the lead-off position in his book which has been published this month.  I am looking forward to reading the rest of the stories.  (In fact, I have read some of them now and here is the proof.)  But, selfish devil that I am, I am going to talk a little about my own.

"The Roseville Way" is about a couple who meet on the east coast and move to the wife's midwestern hometown to open a pizza shop.  Problem is, there doesn't seem to be much demand for New York style pizza in Roseville and things are not going so well.  


Then a couple of men arrive from the New York area, a retired businessman and his younger assistant.  Both of Italian ancestry, both looking like they have survived a few fights.  They love  the pizza.

Is it possible the old guy is a former mobster, maybe on the run, and the younger man is his bodyguard?  And do the shop owners want to argue with success?

I trust you can see how we have aspects both cozy and noir here.

I can tell you exactly where this story idea came from.  In fact, if you used to read the Criminal Brief blog, I did tell you about it.  (Please note that this was back in 2007.  When I say I am a slow writer, I mean it.) 



Sitting in a pizza parlor just off Dupont Circle I acquired an idea for a mystery story. Since I was in the capital city of a major nation, surrounded by power, intrigue, and scandal, naturally I came up with a story about blue collar people in a small town. The human mind is a strange beast.

And here is more evidence for the strangeness inside a writer's cranium.  There is a scene in my new novel, out next spring, set in a pizza parlor in Washington D.C.  How can one mostly nondiscript place inspire two completely different pieces of fiction?

Oddly enough, this double-dipping happened to me once before, as I explained here. 

Anyway, I hope this will inspire you to read a short story.  Or eat some pizza.  In either case, happy digesting.

18 November 2014

Postcards from the River

by Stephen Ross

A couple of years ago, I was living in a city called Hamilton. It's one of New Zealand's few inland cities; New Zealand is a long, thin slice of country and the ocean (Pacific Ocean to the right, Tasman Sea to the left) is never more than an hour or two's drive away. Although inland, Hamilton is not without water frontage, as the Waikato River flows through the center of the city and effectively splits it into two.

I lived a couple of blocks from the river, and the office building I worked in downtown was located riverside on London Street. Naturally, I often walked to and from the office each day along the river, taking advantage of the excellent system of paved city walkways that hugged the river bank.

Given the remoteness of some parts of the track, and the signs of nocturnal delinquency (graffiti, condoms, needles, etc.), I expected most mornings to find a body. I did "find" a couple of drunks and several shifty teenagers, but thankfully never anyone dead. My mind had other ideas. Although I've never used the riverbank walkway specifically as a setting, it has inspired two short stories: Boundary Bridge (where an angry, American TV writer shoves a young man off one of Hamilton's five bridges into the river); and The Riverboat (which curiously ended up being set in the early 20th century, in the deep south of the US).

The Waikato River flows through the Waikato Plains region of the North Island of New Zealand, and at 425 kilometers (265 miles), it's the country's longest waterway. The Waikato Plains are one of the country's dairy heartlands, and Hamilton is the region's largest city (the fourth largest in the country). Photo (c)2010 Stephen Ross

One Monday morning, however, there was a dead body at the end of my walk. It was in the alleyway next to the front entrance of the office building I worked in (located about 20 yards from the river).

Actually, the body was no longer there; there wasn't even a chalk outline (they don't actually draw those). There was, however, a police line, a couple of dozen evidence markers, a frozen police officer, and a sea of fingerprint powder residue -- every inch of the alley and the building's entrance, every rock, every piece of litter, all of it caked in the stuff.

The police officer was frozen because he was dressed in his uniform of a blue shirt and dark slacks. I, by contrast, was dressed for an Antarctic expedition -- it was the middle of winter. It doesn't snow in Hamilton, but we were down to about 2°C that morning (that's less than 36°F).

According to the slowly-turning-blue representative of the thin blue line, the dead body of a man had been discovered in the early hours of the morning. The street had been closed off and a forensics team brought in to examine the scene. Yes, the man had been murdered.

The body had been taken away about 30 minutes before I arrived. The remaining officer was standing watch, preserving the scene (possibly forever) as the detective in charge hadn't given the all clear, which meant access to the building was a no go.

"You're not going in there, mate," said the officer, who must have been made out of concrete -- or was slowly turning into concrete.

"When can I go in? I work on the second floor of that building."

"I think you might be getting the day off, mate."

That was nice of him.

My boss (who arrived a few minutes later), when informed of this hindrance in our approach to our desks, and at our being given a day's holiday by the constabulary, said, "This is not good enough." Actually, he didn't say that, but that was the implication I could extract from the obscenities.

After about an hour, the all clear was finally given and we were allowed to enter the building -- to thaw out from the cold. It was a gloomy day at the office; not a joke was uttered. Bad taste took that offered day's holiday. The media had a vulture's picnic on the doorstep, and the scene of the crime became a tourist destination for Hamilton's lowlifes.

Photo (c)2010 Stephen Ross "The Waikato River flowed through Hamilton like a dark freeway. I spent afternoons sitting at the table in the living room staring down at its cool, shady water. Any day, damn it, I was going to jump in and hitch a ride out of town."

BOUNDARY BRIDGE
Stephen Ross

In the afternoon, a friend said: "I suppose you'll use this murder in a story?"

My reply was "No".

I make a very clear separation in my mind between real murder and imaginary murder, and I don't have a lot to do with the real stuff. Sure, I read about such stories in the newspaper, but note them only in passing. I don't believe I've written any story inspired by real life events.

The thing about writing crime fiction (and the operative word here is fiction) is that I get to make it all up. And importantly, I get to serve up justice where and how I see fit. Murder in the real world isn't that neat and tidy, and most writers, I guess, write because we want to bring order to that chaos...  And I won't write anymore on that line of thought, as I'm sure there are at least 50,000 university papers already collecting dust.

Real murder is complicated. It's ugly and banal. The "wonderful" killers I get to write about don't exist in the real world (inventing "Moriarty" types is a big part of the fun of writing).

Hamilton, New Zealand, June 2010

The dead man in London Street was Donald Alfred Stewart. He was 74. Towards midnight on Sunday 27 June, he stopped his car to use a public restroom in the central city. He was murdered for his car keys. His killer, a boy aged 14, and his accomplices, aged 15 and 17, were caught within days. All three were tried, convicted, and jailed.

Click here for New Zealand Herald report
Photo (c)2010 Stephen Ross

Be seeing you…


https://www.facebook.com/stephen.ross.author

17 November 2014

Moderating a Special Panel


Jan Grape
Moderating A Special Panel

by Jan Grape

Recently, I was contacted by Linda Aronovsky Cox who had been customer at my bookstore, Mysteries & More. Linda wondered if I would be willing to moderate a panel with Jonathan and Faye Kellerman and their son, Jesse for the Jewish Book Fair.

Wow, of course, I agreed while doing a happy dance. And was dancing even more once I knew it was to be an evening event, 7:00pm on Thursday, October 30, at the Jewish Community Center, in Austin. I'm a more coherent person in the afternoon and evening.

I had read several books by both Jonathan and Faye and met them around twenty years ago at a West Coast Bouchercon, but I didn't know their son, Jesse is also pursuing a writing career. The current situation is that Jonathan and Jesse have collaborated on their first book, A Golem In Hollywood, released in September. Jesse's books prior to this including Potboiler, an Edgar nomination for Best Novel. Faye's current mystery titled, Murder 101, released also in September.

Jonathan Kellerman - Golem in Hollywood
Jesse Kellerman - PotBoiler
Fay Kellerman - Murder 101

The big problem to lift it's head was the fact the event was nine days away and I had not read their books. and I live 60 miles one way from Linda and the closest Barnes and Noble is 30 miles one way. Linda and I chatted back and forth and decided even if she mailed the books to me, I might not get them in time to read. We decided I should order from Amazon and the book fair would reimburse me.

I got the books on Friday afternoon late and started reading Golem. This book is character and plot rich and complicated and five hundred fifty pages long. Needless to say, I knew I couldn't do a good job if I had not read this book. I mostly did nothing starting Friday evening thru shortly after midnight on Sunday except read. And I finished it. Good thing because it's not something like any previous book you might have read.

On Monday evening I began reading Murder 101 by Faye Kellerman. An advantage here is that I've read her before and this is again with her series characters, Rina Decker and Peter Lazarus. The new premise of this one is the couple have moved to Upstate New York, to a small college town. Peter has had a career of homicide detective for the Los Angeles Police Department, but now is working for the small town of Greenbury. There has been a break in at a Mausoleum that had windows made by Tiffany.

The captain in charge of GPD asked Peter Lazarus to assist in the investigation because he had more experience than anyone else on the small force. The GPD mainly handled traffic violations and domestic cases and college students drinking problems. Peter accepted reluctantly because he was paired with Tyler McAdams, a brash, rich, totally self-absorbed and obnoxious young man who had no idea how to talk to anyone or even to handle a gun.

Of course major mayhem occurred including murder and very involved art theft and taking Peter, Tyler and even Rina to New York, where she was able to visit with children and grandchildren, but also to accompany her husband and Tyler to art galleries since she had some knowledge in that field. Tyler did prove useful with his computer skills. I wasn't able to finish this book before the event, but knew enough that I could ask a couple of pertinent questions.

How to prepare for an panel with the famous authors in attendance? I'm mostly a fly-by-the-seat-of-my-pants moderator. Maybe it's my childhood upbringing where my creativity wasn't stifled along with the fact that I've probably moderated twenty-five or more panels and been a guest author on another twenty or so. The main focus for the moderator is to highlight the authors on the panel. They want to talk about their book or books. They are hoping they will tell the audience enough, intrigue them enough that people will rush to buy their book. There were over two hundred people in the audience and a lot of books were sold.

My friend Linda Cox introduced me and I in turn introduced the authors one by one calling them up to the stage as I did. The three Kellermans sat at a table, each had microphones and I had requested water for each. No one had thought to do that, but it's very important because with a lot of talking and a little bit of nerves your mouth and throat turns cottony rather quickly.

Once the guests were seated, I stood at a podium with a microphone. I briefly mentioned the Golem book and said as a previous bookseller I would classify it as a mystery/suspense/fantasy/thriller and Jonathan said and slash Romance. I did have to get a chair bought up to the stage as standing began to aggravate my back. Fortunately, my microphone was one that I could take off the mike stand. I also stood up when indicating another person had the floor to ask a question.

I also like to start things off with a laugh if possible so I said to Jonathan and Jesse, "What kind of whacky-tobacky were you two smoking when you wrote this?" It got the required laugh and we were off. Naturally they denied they had smoked anything and Jonathan began telling how the idea and the book came into being.

He had visited Prague a while back and had been intrigued by the Golem myth. Seems like everywhere he went he saw something about the Golem, even seeing a sign for Golem burgers. He researched a little more and got more intrigued but he had a couple of Alex Delaware (his series character) books in progress and didn't have time to work on anything new.

One evening he and Jesse were discussing the idea and Jon's enthusiasm was contagious. Jesse said you really ought to write this and Jonathan said, how would you like to write it with me. Jesse is a best selling author of five thrillers and is a renown playwright and Dad knew the son could handle it.

They both live in California but Jesse lives three hundred miles away with his own wife and son. So the father and son wrote back and forth using e-mails. The book contains a present day mystery and a jump back to the time of Cain and Abel from the Bible. The parts are sectioned off in the book so that you understand what time period you are reading about. I asked if Jonathan wrote the present day and Jesse the historical and they said "No." We both wrote it all together and tried to make it one voice and I assured them they had done an excellent job with that.

This book is quite different. The present day and the historical fantasy come together in the end. And Jonathan and Jesse are already working on a sequel titled A Golem In Paris.

I then talked with Faye about her book, Murder 101 and she explained how the Tyler character was really a pain in Peter's behind but she'd had so much fun writing that character. She wanted to breathe new life into the Lazarus's lives and make them fresh again.

After twenty minutes of just the Kellermans, I turned the floor over to the audience and we had about twenty minutes of "How do you and Faye write together?" They previously collaborated on two books. They have a big house and one works in one wing and one works in the other wing. They also used the email method of working together and it worked well. They just didn't do face to face reading or editing.

Someone wanted to know if they thought the writing gene could be hereditary? And all agreed there might be something to that. Jonathan said his father wrote stories and Jesse says his young son has a good imagination and tells a good story which the father has written down.

All in all this was a wonderful evening. All three Kellermans were entertaining, witty, knowledgeable, and fun to listen to. I really didn't have much to do, just sort of point them to how, when, why and they jumped right in and left the audience wanting to hear the "rest of the story" by purchasing their books.

I highly recommend both books and, from everything I've heard, I think the attendees really enjoyed the evening.

Kellermans: Jonathan, Jesse, Jan Grape, Faye
Kellermans: Jonathan, Jesse, Jan Grape, Faye

16 November 2014

Return of the Native

by Leigh Lundin

Last Tuesday, Janice Law broadcast her take on writing as a reality television event, (which the French l’Oulipo actually does). As I was starting to comment, I recalled Monty Python ran a radio skit of Thomas Hardy writing as a spectator sport.

You can listen to Monty Python's sketch 'Novel Writing' and follow along with the transcript.

(Eric Idle) And now it’s time for novel-writing, which today comes from the West Country from Dorset.

(Michael Palin) Hello, and welcome to Dorchester, where a very good crowd has turned out to watch local boy Thomas Hardy write his new novel The Return of the Native on this very pleasant July morning. This will be his eleventh novel and the fifth of the very popular Wessex novels; and here he comes, here comes Hardy walking out toward his desk. He looks confident, he looks relaxed, very much the man in form as he acknowledges this very good-natured bank holiday crowd. And the crowd goes quiet now as Hardy settles himself down at his desk, body straight, shoulders relaxed, pen held lightly but firmly in the right hand. He dips the pen in the ink and he’s off! It’s the first word, but it’s not a word. Oh no, it’s a doodle way up on the left-hand margin. It’s a piece of meaningless scribble and he’s signed his name underneath. Oh dear, what a disappointing start! But he’s off again and here he goes, the first word of Thomas Hardy’s first novel at 10.35 on this very lovely morning. It’s three letters, it’s the definite article and it’s “the”, Dennis.

(Graham Chapman) Well, this is true to form, no surprises there. He’s started five of his eleven novels to date with the definite article. We’ve had two of them with “it”, there’s been one “but”, two “at”s, one “and”, and a “Dolores”. Oh, that, of course, was never published.

(Michael Palin) I’m sorry to interrupt you there, Dennis, but he’s crossed it out! Thomas Hardy here on the first day of his new novel has crossed out the only word he’s written so far, and he’s gazing off into space. Oh dear, he’s signed his name again.

(Graham Chapman) It looks like Tess of the D’Urbervilles all over again.

(Michael Palin) But he’s, no he’s down again and writing, Dennis. He’s written “the” again and he’s written “a” and there’s a second word coming up and it’s “sat”. “A sat …”, doesn’t make sense, “a satur …”, “a Saturday”, it’s “a Saturday”, and the crowd are loving it. They are really enjoying this novel. And “this afternoon”, “this Saturday afternoon in … in … in know … knowvember”, November is spelled wrong, but he’s not going back. It looks as if he’s going for a sentence and it’s the first verb coming up, the first verb of the novel and it’s “was”, and the crowd are going wild. “A Saturday afternoon in November was” – and a long word here – “appro … appro …” Is it “approval”? No, it’s “approaching, approaching…” “A Saturday afternoon in November was approaching,” and he’s done the definite article “the” again, and he’s writing fluently, easily with flowing strokes of the pen as he comes up to the middle of this first sentence. And with his eleventh novel well under way and the prospects of a good day’s writing ahead, back to the studio.

(Eric Idle) Wasp Club, introduced as usual by Ronny Thompson.

(Terry Jones) Hello, and welcome to Wasp Club where we…

(Eric Idle) We interrupt the sketch to take you straight back to novel-writing from Dorchester and the latest news about that opening sentence.

(Michael Palin) Well, the noise you can hear is because Hardy has just completed his first sentence and it’s a real cracker, just listen to this: “A Saturday afternoon in November was approaching the time of twilight, and the vast tract of unenclosed wild known as Egdon Heath embrowned itself moment by moment,” and that after only three hours of writing. What a Hardyesque cracker.

15 November 2014

Incognito

by John M. Floyd

A few weeks ago I did something a bit different. I went to a weekend conference that had nothing to do with writing. But then, after I got there, it did.

First, a little background. While I was at Mississippi State University in the late 1960s, I was a member of a national engineering fraternity called Theta Tau. I pledged the local chapter (Kappa Beta) in the fall of my sophomore year, I somehow got accepted into their ranks, and for the next three years I went to the meetings, worked on community service projects, attended the banquets and dances and outings and recognition events, and made lifelong friends. I even hand-carved, as all pledges were required to do, a hammer out of a block of wood; it now hangs on the wall of my home office, above my computer.

In an unusual turn of fate, our two sons Michael and David wound up being engineering majors as well, and when they attended Mississippi State in the 1990s they also became members of Theta Tau. (Not that it matters, but I graduated in electrical engineering, Michael in chemical engineering, David in biological engineering. Michael's now a chem. e. with DuPont in West Virginia, and David--who went on to medical school afterward--is a physician at a hospital here in Mississippi.) So my sons are also my brothers, in the fraternity's record book, and when the MSU chapter of Theta Tau hosted a celebration of its 50th anniversary last month, all three of us attended the event (the reunion, actually), and spent the whole weekend on campus.

NOTE 1: It was a particularly good time to return to our alma mater. Thanks to the unpredictable blessings of the college football gods, Mississippi State's team has been ranked #1 in the nation for more than a month now. That lofty rating might come crashing down this weekend, when they play Alabama, so if you're reading these words on Saturday, November 15 . . . well, I hope you read them before the 2:30 kickoff.

NOTE 2: Our daughter Karen also graduated from Mississippi State, but she majored in music. A good choice, for two reasons: (1) she loves it, and has taught music in a local elementary school for the past ten years now, and (2) three out of five should be enough engineers for any one family.

Getting back to my story, Michael flew in from the Far North early that weekend, and the three of us Floyd boys piled into my car and drove the 120 miles to the little college town of Starkville. We met a lot of old (in my case, really old) classmates from Days Past, we ate a ton of barbecue at a cookout and bonfire that night, and we were given tours of the fraternity house, the engineering buildings, and the campus in general. I managed to learn a few things (example: the Simrall Electrical Engineering Building is the site of the largest high-voltage laboratory in North America), I unearthed some pleasant memories (most of which were related to dorm life and the campus pool hall), I ignored some unpleasant memories (most of which were related to classrooms and all-night study sessions), and I had a great time exploring and sightseeing.

So how does all this relate, even vaguely, to writing? I'll tell you. A lot of these old engineering buddies I ran into that weekend had become--you guessed it--writers. Some had begun writing long ago and others were fairly new to the task. Admittedly, many turned out to be authors of technical material: instruction manuals, articles for trade journals, hi-tech how-to books, etc. (Even I wrote a check-processing software guide, during my career with IBM; that literary endeavor is not one of my pleasant memories.) But lo and behold, some of these longlost friends were writers of fiction. Several had published or were working on novels, and a few--bless their little scientific hearts--had written short stories. Some had even read my short stories, or were kind enough to say they had.

Which begs the question: Could a background in engineering, math, technology, etc., naturally point someone toward a second career in writing? Since overachievers in any field can be a bit self-important at times, could ego play a part, here? Could such people feel more of a need to "enlighten" the world with their written words? Maybe--but I doubt it. Many of the engineers I went through school with were brilliant, but some were almost reclusive and a few, very honestly, didn't seem to have enough common sense to come in out of the rain. In my view, the answer is simple: In almost any large group of people these days, if and when they feel comfortable enough to chat for a while among themselves, you will discover a surprising number of folks who have decided to try their hand at writing. They might be aspiring or professional, secretive or open, traditionally-published or self-, literary or genre, fiction or non-, talented or pathetic, but there are a great many writers walking around out there in the world. As the little girl in Poltergeist said, "They're heeeee-ere." They're just hard to identify, in the wild.

I have yet another theory. I think writers who are less than well-known sort of enjoy eventually revealing the fact that they're writers, especially if they're revealing it to a gathering of colleagues or peers. Nobody brags (although they probably should) about being an engineer, but almost everyone who writes is proud of being an author. There's a certain fascination about it. "Whoa," says the wide-eyed nonwriter--"I've always wondered what that would be like."

I am no exception. I enjoy being a writer. A few months ago, having been asked many times at booksignings and writers' conferences, "Do you have a business card?"--and having replied many times that I did not, except for my old IBM cards--I finally gave in and ordered several hundred preprinted cards from an outfit online. The information on my newly-acquired business cards is short and to the point: my name, the word WRITER, my e-mail address, and my website name. And even though I seldom find a need to actually use them, I did hand a few cards to my old classmates and fraternity brothers during our little reunion last month. In the middle of all the discussions about robotics and thermodynamics and research grants and aeronautical design, I was able to grin and say, "I'm a writer now."

It felt good.

14 November 2014

Uncle Sam

by R.T. Lawton

Rainbow Division shoulder patch
Three days ago was November 11th, Veteran's Day, our national holiday to celebrate the end of World War I. The way the peace treaty was set up. at the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month in 1918, all the guns in Europe went silent. The War to End All Wars, which had started one hundred years ago from this year, was then over. More than 9 million combatants and 7 million civilians had perished. In those days, new technology for death and destruction, plus the stalemate of trench warfare had caused the increased casualty rate.

My Family

All this got me to thinking. When I was a kid, I remember times when my Uncle Sam Pritchard came to visit. He was always a quiet man, never said much, but was good to all his nieces and nephews and seemed to enjoy our company with fishing, camping and archery. Us kids though got reminders not to ask our uncle about the war he was in or even to mention that war to him at all. At our young age, we merely agreed and didn't think much about it. Although, I know my dad and Sam must have discussed the subject a few times because my dad would sometimes tell me stories about Sam and The Great War.

German soldiers on way to the front
As I was told, my Uncle Sam had been a mechanic in the Rainbow Division, an American army division which fought in France. At the front, their meals of cooked beans were loaded into large metal cans at the field kitchens and carried to the troops in the trenches on the backs of pack mules. Life at the front was short. Sam was sick when he came home after the war. Seems a slight whiff of Mustard Gas had burned his lungs during one of the German attacks, but he survived and made it back alive.

French reserves headed to Verdun
I always liked the old guy and had some good times with him. On a whim recently, I plugged his name into a Google search. Didn't really expect to find much, so I was surprised to locate a roster of the Rainbow Division for that time period. About two thirds of the way through the roster, I found his name under the 168th Regiment (3rd Iowa) Infantry: Samuel A. Pritchard, Mechanic, Van Meter, Iowa. All the other names had a rank behind the name, so evidently in those days Mechanic was a specialty rank. I had known Sam to be good with his hands, always making something out of wood or metal, inventing machines, tinkering and repairing stuff. It's easy to believe he was listed as a Mechanic.

British gas casualties
Unit History

The Rainbow Division (42nd Infantry Division) was activated in August 1917 and was made up of various regiments from 26 states and Washington, D.C. Their shoulder patch is a quarter arc of bands of red, yellow and blue on an army green border. Arriving in France in November 1917, the Division took part in four major operations: the Champagne-Marne, the Aisne-Marne, the Battle of Saint-Mihiel and the Meuse-Argonne Offensive. In 1919, the Division was deactivated until being placed back into service for WWII.

Russian troops awaiting German attack
Choosing Sides:

The main players in this 1900's world drama were:

     Central Powers ~ Germany, Austro-Hungarian Empire, Bosnia, Ottoman Empire, Bulgaria
     Allied Powers ~ America, British Empire, France and colonies, Belgium, Serbia, Russia, Italy

Aftermath

The aggressor was defeated and rightly so, but the aftermath of The War to End All Wars only set the stage for the next global conflict and some of the smaller conflicts which followed after that one. Treaties had been written by the politicians to punish the losing countries who then resented their poor economic conditions and stored away old grudges to be brought out later. Territories were distributed as the winners saw fit which caused future unrest among peoples and governments. The desire by various countries for valuable resources decided where the control for some lands went. The fire was being lit for World War II, it merely smoldered under the surface for a time. Tribes and cultures in Africa and the Middle East were set on collision courses still being reaped in today's world.

Canadian tanks & troops
Austrians executing Serbs, 1917
Politicians wrote the various treaties for their own purposes both before the war to choose sides and after the war to set the terms of surrender, but it was the soldiers who fought the war and suffered in the process. My Uncle Sam served in our army from a sense of patriotic duty to his country, as many soldiers do, however I seriously doubt that many, if any, of those politicians involved in the decisions before and after ever served at the front during that time of death, destruction and madness.