THE MAN WHO ASKED TO BE KILLED * INCORRIGIBLE * THE YEARBOOK  THEMANnewcover15APRIL152 THEMANnewcover15APRIL152THEMANnewcover15APRIL152THEMANnewcover15APRIL152THEMANnewcover15APRIL152THEMANnewcover15APRIL152

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THE JFK ASSASSINATION: AMERICA’S ULTIMATE MYSTERY

Perusing one of my railroad books, ‘Down South’ on the Rock Island, by Steve Allen Goen (La Mirada, CA: Four Ways West Publications, 2002), I came across the photo and caption reproduced below. (Ignore the Brook Hollow ad.) The photo was taken 32 days after JFK’s assassination. Note what the caption says about the Texas Live Oak trees. (Click on the photo to enlarge the text.)

I’ve neither read the Warren Commission Report nor studied all of the facts surrounding the assassination. I remember hearing over the high school intercom system the news that the president was dead; I was a sophomore at the time. At my Fullerton, California Southern Baptist church that Sunday we prayed for our late president (it was unlikely that he, being Catholic, had found Jesus as his personal savior, as we, as Baptists had and believed people must in order to get into heaven). I went home from church and learned that Jack Ruby had shot Lee Harvey Oswald while Oswald was being moved in police custody.

Coming across the photo and caption above reminded me again of the controversy surrounding the death investigation and conclusions in not only John Kennedy’s assassination, but in the assassination of his brother Robert, whom I’d accompanied my mother and sisters to see as he and his wife Ethel and their dog came down the steps from their arriving plane at Orange County airport. At the fence my two younger sisters shook Robert Kennedy’s hand. The next day would be the California primary and his murder as he made his way through the kitchen at the victory party.

 

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Blanche Dubous Meets “The Misfit” Courtesy of Me

When most of us living today hear the title “A Good Man Is Hard to Find”–Flannery O’Connor’s 1955  story–we smile and think of Mae West’s twist on it, “A hard man is good to find,” although Mae West (1893-1980) probably responded to the 1919 song A Good Man Is Hard to Find, unless as posited theoretically by one source, phrases.org.uk, Sophie Tucker (1887-1966) coined the phrase (apparently Ms. Tucker used the song A Good Man Is Hard to Find to close her act).

I know all of the above because, while waiting for my second and third novels to be published, I’m writing my fourth, A GOOD MAN, inspired by Flannery O’Connor’s story, “A Good Man Is Hard to Find.” In O’Connor’s story a vacationing family (husband, wife, son, daughter, baby, and husband’s mother) encounter three escaped convicts, one known as “The Misfit.” The encounter gives rise to The Misfit saying of the husband’s mother, “She would have been a good woman if it had been someone there to shoot her every minute of her life.”

In my novel A GOOD MAN a family spends Christmas in a Maine mountain house with difficult Aunt Fiona. They take in two snowbound motorists who turn out to be escaped convicts, the older one maniacally religious and dangerous, the younger as desperately in need of love as a mistreated puppy. On the drive to Maine college freshman Gusten reads news on his cell. “Of mild interest [to Gusten] is a story about two convicts who escaped from a privately operated prison in Virginia. In high school Gusten wrote a paper on privately run prisons. That a corporation can own a prison for profit—make money off the incarceration of society’s most pathetic and needy—sickened Gusten. Prisons, hospitals, medical practices, insurance companies, banks—no one forced to deal with any of these institutions should be forced to rely upon the greed of corporate strangers, as Blanche DuBois might have expressed it.”

On his flight home from college Gusten read Flannery O’Connor’s story featuring The Misfit. Thus do both Blanch Dubois and The Misfit find themselves snugly together in my pages.

Looking for Blanche’s quote, “I have always relied upon the kindness of strangers,” from Tennessee Williams’ play A Street Car Named Desire, I came upon other interesting Blanche Dubois quotes, including “I can’t stand a naked light bulb, any more than I can a rude remark or a vulgar action.” (For a site of Blanche Dubois quotes, see http://www.imdb.com/character/ch0012161/quotes.)

The provocative stage shot above, of cigarette-smoking Blanche and barebacked Stanley, was photographed by Carissa Dixon and appeared in Chicago on the Aisle captioned “Tracy Mitchell Arnold [as Blanche] sizes up the situation with Stanley [Eric Parks].”

 

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“If you don’t push against the mirror, how do you know you’re standing in front of it?”

The quote above is from my interview with Martin Pousson, whose PEN award-winning novel Black Sheep Boy, also an L.A. Times Pick of the Week, inspired Susan Larson (NPR The Reading Life) to say: “An unforgettable novel-in-stories about growing up gay in French Acadiana, so vivid and almost fairy tale-like, drawing on folklore from the region, and yet so brutally realistic. Brilliant. I loved this book.”  I loved it too, for Pousson’s poetic prose, among other reasons. Read my full interview in Late Last Night Books magazine, here.

Posted in Author interviews, book reviews, fathers and sons, gender, interviews, writing about time and place, writing characters | Tagged , | Leave a comment

NEXT TIME THIS GUY FLIES, I WANT TO BE BEHIND HIM IN THE SECURITY LINE.

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SACONY CIELLA AD IN LIFE MAGAZINE 1949

Is it the pose that makes this picture so striking? Wouldn’t it be a great book cover?

 

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Italy: Vernazza in Cinque Terre, the Amalfi Coast, Naples, and How We Got Around

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