My Review of “Tap Sapian”

This is a dystopian tale of a budding rebellion, complete with star crossed lovers. It follows typical format of the genre and is adequately fleshed out in the broad strokes. Where I find it falling short is in character development, and believability.

You can find better security at a public library than the Army of the SC exhibited. Their inability to catch the blatantly obvious insurrection by the protagonist stretched credibility past the reasonable expectation of “Suspension of Disbelief” by the reader. Their ineptitude reduced tension that they might catch our heroine.

While I love a good love story, the gap between Brandi and Daniel simply is to wide to be believably bridged. No General in any army would ever romance a private. This was another aspect that made the ASC more comic relief than threat.

Love at first sight is a common theme in Shakespearian comedies, but not compelling in modern literature. It makes the relationship seem shallow.  Those first giddy feeling are in truth infatuation. Real love takes time and work. One wonders what qualities, other than those turquoise eyes, Daniel had that attracted Brandi. He didn’t seem to have much character, self-discipline, or moral fiber. He was, in fact, the embodiment of everything she hated in the world.

This may yet turn into a good series, but it will need some tightening up.

DAD

I was an Army brat and just took my dad for granted in the same way most children take their parents for granted. He was a soldier before I was born, and that’s all I ever knew. Until I was about 8-years-old, I lived either on base, or off base with other military families. Everybody’s dad was a soldier. After he left the service and we rejoined the civilian population, other kid’s dads were salesmen or farmers. It still didn’t seem like a big deal.

I remember that when we were stationed in Germany, even at age 6 I could sense some deference in the way other people treated dad. But again, it was there all of my life and I just assumed that it was just part of what and who dad was. Other little things happened that were different from the other army dads. Most of the other kids fathers knew each other. None of them seemed to know my dad. But at 6-years-old, that didn’t register. It had been that way all my life and I just assumed that was the way of the universe.

This was from 1961 through 1962, when we were stationed in Saarbrücken. We were living off base on the economy at the time, but when I started kindergarten, I did get to see other kids. We would sometimes get a phone call late in the afternoon that dad was, “on CQ.” This meant that he wouldn’t be home that night, or possibly the next night, or even the next. In fact, we didn’t know when he’d be home again. When he did get home, he’d usually be off work for a day or so, and spend most of it sleeping. You did not want to wake him up!

The cold war was pretty hot in those days and we were preparing for hostilities. We had our evacuation supplies ready. Mom and Dad explained to us kids, (ages 6, 4, and 2) that some bad men might try to come and if so we would go back to American with mom. Dad would have to stay, but some of his army friends would help us get home. Dad was a soldier first, and his duty to the service came before his duty to family.

Sometime after October of 1962, things settled down a little and were were transferred from Saarbrücken through Ansbach to Garmisch. We lived on base now, and I had other kids to play with after school. Here dad was an instructor at the European Theater Headquarters Weapons Assembly Department. Even in these calmer times, things were a little different from the other families. Dad belonged to a very exclusive ski club. He would often be gone for a night or two with this club. Wives and families were rarely invited to any of the club events. We also went on a lot of hikes and picnics in this beautiful part of Germany, barely a hundred miles south of the Fulda gap. Usually it was just our family, but I remember several occasions when another family went with us. Usually no family more than once. It would always be a different family. My dad and the other dad would go off alone for a while. I remember one occasion in particular when I wanted to tag along but was sternly told I couldn’t go.

In later years I learned Dad was a Green Beret and had gone to ranger school. But he made so little of it that even as a young adult the importance of those distinctions didn’t sink in.

A few years after his death, one of his old army buddies looked us up. He was in the area and wanted to visit with mom. We chatted for a few minutes and I was reminiscing about living in Germany. I must have been talking about the picnics when the guy suddenly got a little perturbed with me.

“You do know you dad was working on those trips?” he asked a little shortly.

I guess the blank look on my face answered the question for him. We changed the subject and he left a short time later. But a light had finally been switched on and I began to see things that I should have seen years before. I did know that dad was an expert in the use of tactical (battle field) nuclear weapons. That was what he was teaching at WAD. I questioned mom before her death about that time. Sometimes she would admit the she was aware that there was more to his career than met the eye. Other times she would claim ignorance.

I remember two occasions, when dad was gone, the suitcases and K ratios were placed by the door, and mom showed us the big army truck we might soon be riding in. Those were during the Cuban Missile crisis and the assassination of President Kennedy.

I’ll never know the details and I don’t need to. That’s not the point. The point is – is that in the latter half of 1962 as the world spun toward nuclear holocaust, he was doing something important and undoubtedly dangerous. Not only will the world never know what he did in the service of his country, his own family won’t either. We could have lost him without knowing why.

The closest he ever came to revealing that part of his life was once when some whack job country had captured some American soldiers and claimed they were spies. I don’t remember the details, but apparently we weren’t getting them out. I remember dad bitterly saying that the country had a duty to get them out, or kill them in the attempt. He was certain that they had been made that promise.

What little I’ve figured out, I figured out too late. Dad is gone and I can’t acknowledge to him that I know, at least a little more, the depth of his sacrifice. There will never be a book written about his service, no TV mini series. No one will ever know what dangers he faced, or what service he gave. Dad accepted that. I have trouble with it.

Plagiarism

It’s such a great feeling. I haven’t written anything since June of 2019. I was 7 chapters into another book set in the “Mud” universe, when it all just came to a screeching halt.

There were many reasons for that. I had been struggling with a plot device that would determine who the major antagonist would be. I first envisioned the bad guys as an energy company, abusing a landowner cheated out of the mineral rights to his land. But trying to do research to make the interactions credible, I was only able to speak with people who had ties to energy companies. “Oh we wouldn’t do that,” I was repeatedly assured. “If a land owner doesn’t want us there, we’ll just go on down the road to the next property.

SO.

I changed my antagonist to the bank that had surreptitiously separated the mineral rights from the surface rights as they sold the land back to the family they had for-closed on. I was 7 chapters into this narrative when I crossed paths with a man who had been working in PR for an energy company. He claimed that he had left that job because of the way his company had mistreated landowners.

SCHREEEEEECH!!!

OK, Now I want to go back to the original plot. This person assured me he would put me in touch with people who had dealt with the energy companies. Long story short, it never happened. In the meantime, I lost my job with the paper and eventually started a new job as a Corrections Officer. (Prison Guard.) That job sucked so much out of me that there was no hope I’d ever write while there.

Eventually I got a much better job as a Security Officer at a public Library. Finally, I was ready to start writing again.

But!

As I looked at the story with fresh eyes, I realized I was just writing “Beneath The Delta Mud,” with different characters. A different guy was going to blow up different people for a different reason. Otherwise, it was the same story. I had been plagiarizing myself. I even had the same protagonist who would ultimately stop the disaster.

This brought me to a halt. I just could muster any enthusiasm to re-wright the same story with different names and a different title. After a time I decided to write a new story based on this universe and these characters. It took a couple of months, but eventually I came up with what I think is the solution. It will be a mystery.

The guy who was going to be the bad guy becomes “the body.” I’ve already established a character that everybody hates, and almost everybody will benefit from his death. Something I’d almost forgot about returned. I began to have conversations in my head between my characters. I began to have dialogue in my moments of thought about the story.

I’ve never written mystery before. I know there are rules, and I intend to follow them. I’m reading a Nora Roberts novel at the  moment, to get myself in the mood for mystery. I’ve already got the framework of a plot in mind. I hope to be successful in this new genre but, succeed or fail, I won’t be plagiarizing myself.

Cushman Daze

A few years ago, a friend attended a rally that featured vintage Cushman scooters. It’s hard to imagine the reaction the first buyers of those old machines would have had to the idea that he took pictures of them with his telephone.

My first experience with a Cushman Vehicle was the ’60s era Truckster owned by a friend. We lived in a small town in rural southeast Arkansas. I was 13 years old, and felt like the only kid in the county who didn’t own some sort of motorized transportation. This area was too spread out to realistically walk every where. At least half of the population of our town lived miles out in the country. The bayous, fishing holes, and hunting spots were also too far away to reach by foot. So most teens and preteens had use of a small motorcycle or scooter. But my pal Ricky had the absolute Cadillac of Arkansas County adolescent transportation. A Cushman Truckster.

This thing had a cab with a bench seat. We could get three of our skinny little bodies in there without sitting on each other. And several more could pile into the back. Actually onto the back. All of the Trucksters I’ve seen at vintage shows had an actual truck bed behind the cab. Ricky’s had a hard top on it that we couldn’t remove. I’m not sure why. I never questioned it back in the day, having never seen anything different. So the less fortunate passengers selected to ride on the bed would cling to the rounded beast for dear life while Ricky showed us what that little 12-horse engine could do.

It had plastic doors that looked like shower curtains. Most of the time, these were rolled back and snapped in place. But if the weather threatened, Ricky could roll those things shut with snaps around the door frame to get away from the cold or rain. We’ve actually had four in the cab, and maybe could have gotten five if we’d been a little closer friends.

While my buds and I were roaming the county with Ricky, my future wife was hitching rides with one of her friends who had a Cushman scooter. This model had the long seat that ran all the way to the back. She says they could easily get three girls on it and thinks they may have had four on a couple of occasions. They lived in the little town of Tichnor, Ark., about nine miles to the east. I wasn’t around her enough in those days to witness any of her escapades, but I can just see three or four girls loading up on that thing and headed for the post office or restaurant for some ice cream.

We had fun with these things, but they weren’t really toys. They were serious transportation. If you played football or had any other extracurricular activity, you were going to need some way to get there and back home. The school bus didn’t run for those events. So parents either had to take you themselves, let you ride with somebody else or get you a way to get there on your own. I do remember a few crashes, but nothing serious. Nothing that didn’t heal. It would be years later, after we had our driver’s licenses and had passed the little scooters down to younger siblings, that I’d lose my first friends to vehicle accidents.

Those cell phone photos sure brought back memories. Those rugged little machines served my generation well.

The Jeep.

(An e-mail from Guy Wheatley in Texarkana Texas, USA to Guy Wheatley in Exmouth England)

I think I told you the long sad story leading up to my replacing a perfectly good water pump. Some people, having wasted time and money, would have learned a lesson. I however, am made of sterner stuff! Me! Learn a lesson? Ha!

The other problem we have occasionally involves the starter. Sometimes you hit the key, and nothing happens. The gauges will peg, and the lights will go dim, but nothing else happens. Usually if you just wait a little while, or if you jiggle the shift, it will eventually start.

The Starter motor doesn’t drag. If it turns over at all, it turns over just fine leading me first to think that the problem was a faulty safety interlock on the shift. The “wiggle” solution wasn’t consistent enough to definitively point to this as the problem though, and I was eventually seduced by another hypothesis.

Immediately after having the coolant problem fixed, the starter problem got worse. It now refuses to start. No amount of waiting or jiggling serves the purpose.

I went out to resume the battle one morning, only to discover that the battery was quite dead. This is a new battery, and I was sure that it shouldn’t have simply died on its own. I recharged it planning to resume the struggle the next morning only to find the battery again quite dead.

I removed it from the vehicle and charged it up. It held a charge quite well while disconnected so obviously there was a short somewhere in the Jeep. I remember the old days when the starter solenoid was attached to the firewall. Sometimes they would stick. Occasionally they would unstick themselves. Other times, you could tap them gently with hammer and that would unstick them. The thing is; when they were stuck, they would invariably drain your battery.

“Ah ha Watson!” I cried in an affected British accent that would have made your eyes water. (I’ve been re-reading Sherlock Holmes) “The evidence is clear and points unfalteringly to the solenoid.” Holmes would have wept.

This vehicle, like most I have seen manufactured in since the 70’s has the solenoid attached directly to the starter. I had to remove the starter to replace the solenoid. I accomplished with about three hours under the Jeep, removing and replacing bell housing bolts from the transmission that I had mistaken for mounting bolts on the starter. There was much verbose speculation on theology, and the genealogy of various parts that refused to cooperate. Eventually however, I stood triumphantly holding the starter in my bruised, battered, and bleeding hands.

Quick as a flash, I dashed to the parts store for a new solenoid.

“Look mac,” says the guy behind the counter. “Ya sure ya don’t want to replace the starter while ya got it out?” Obviously this buffoon had no idea to whom he was speaking. A solenoid cost about $28.00 while a starter (solenoid included) was going to run about $79.00. It’s true that if I was wrong about the solenoid, I was simply throwing away $28.00, but I was confident. My logic was impeccable, my conclusions flawless. I assured the imbecile I had no need of a starter. I secured the solenoid and returned to the battle.

As neighboring mothers ushered away children, hands over their ears, I climbed back under the Jeep. Holding the starter as I lay on my back in one hand, I tried to get at least one of the bolts in to hold the weight of the starter. Arms trembling, I tried desperately to get the bolt to bite the threads.

Let’s see, that’s uh lefty-loosey, righty-tighty? No, wait! I’m looking at it from the back so shouldn’t it go the other way? Come on you &&^ %**, take a bite. &^%&*# this has got to be the right *&(^() way!! &^^))& ^((*) %$#@$# %^^$^!!!!! OK! I finally get it in.

I reconnect the wiring then spring to the drivers seat. I turn the key and — – – lights dim, gages peg.

More verbose speculation on genealogy and theology.

I’m not sure exactly how, but in some way, THIS IS RUSSIA’S FAULT!!

It took me three days to get the initiative to gather up and put away my tools. I should have some money coming back from income tax by late February or early March. If the Mitsubishi will just keep running till then, I’ll have the Jeep towed to the shop and let someone who knows what the hell he doing have a shot at it.

The Jeep

Secret Frontier

4 of 5 Stars.

My one criticism is the jumping voice. Jumping back and forth from first party singular to third party omnipotent was distracting to me. I won’t ding a star for it though, as this seems to be becoming more accepted.

The action starts with the opening sentence. The reader is thrown into the action and rushes to keep up. We learn about the protagonist on the fly as the action takes place.

I’m not particularly drawn to broken characters and usually find them cliched. But in this case, Darin exhibits enough potential and is surrounded by supporting characters that negate what would have otherwise been a lack of imagination. Darin’s journey doesn’t simply mirror the arc of the story but is actually integral to, and necessary for it. I began to like these people (well most of them) and care about them. What I first thought was a dark and brooding story became hopeful and uplifting. I enjoyed the surprising twist.

This is a good read with some imaginative concepts and plot devices. It’s well worth the price and time to read.

“When Breath Becomes Air” by Paul Kalanithi

5 of 5 Stars.

This is an inspiring piece, recounted in immaculate prose. But the technical details of the writing, while excellent, are secondary to the emotion. Fear, hope, loss, and determination all vie for dominance in this man’s soul.

He worked so hard, for so long, deferring life’s gratifications to the future, a future it now looks as though may be denied him. He rose to excellence in the most demanding field in medicine. He was a neurosurgeon-scientist. Dressing for his graduation ceremony, his body again failed him.

Yet with so much to feel bitter about, he charted a course of hope, still wanting to make a mark and leave the world better than he found it. Notwithstanding the lives he impacted and saved as a physician, this book alone would validate his expectations of himself. I was blessed to read his words, and wish very much that I could have known him.

His life is an example of a life well lived, short though it was. People he never met will be better for him through the words he left behind. I can not recommend this book enough.

2 of 5 Stars.

As an Indie author, I’ve read a lot of indie books. Most of us can’t afford professional editing, so our works contain significant typos and punctuation errors. This book seems to have been skillfully edited. The prose, punctuation, and grammar are immaculate. It is obvious that a lot of effort, and likely money, went into the editing of this book. That makes this the most meticulously edited piece of narcissistic, self absorbed tripe I’ve ever forced myself through. I had less anxiety over having my cancerous bladder removed than this lady did over a luxury European vacation.

What makes it worse is that I’m concurrently reading “When Breath Becomes Air,” by Dr. Paul Kalanithi. The Juxtaposition is mind bending. Dr. Kalanithi is a neurosurgeon who loses his fight with cancer just out of residency. He faces death with more grace than this woman faces a paid for Luxury European Holiday.

If there is any redeeming factor, it would be the uniqueness of the distorted view of the world the author presents. It reminds me of “The Diary of a Mad Housewife,” where we see the world and other people through the the lens of her madness. This book presents a slightly different distortion, one of extreme narcissism. I didn’t find it the least bit inspiring, rather extremely annoying.

Something Deeply Hidden

4 of 5 Stars

First of all, let me be clear what this review is not about. I am in no way qualified to pass judgement on the validity of the author’s views or assertions. My purpose in reading the book was for enjoyment and to hopefully learn something. In those endeavors, I was successful.

The concepts were over my head to the point I struggled to keep up. I stopped reading several times to find primers on some of the topics on YouTube and the Internet. If this is a 16 oz drink, I probably got 1 oz. Still, it was worth the effort. It gave me new insights and introduced me to things I didn’t know. It also disavowed me of some cherished misconceptions.

If you’re a physicists, don’t bother. This is basic stuff and you already know it. If you’ve never thought about quantum mechanics, don’t bother. This is basic stuff, but will still be over your head. If you’re just a regular person who has a layman’s understanding of QM, this might just show you some things deeply hidden.

Rose City Free Fall: by D. L. Barbur

5 of 5 Stars.

Dent Miller is the typical, tired and cynical cop of any Film Noir detective story. I first thought this was going to be just another pebble on the pile of paperbacks, trying to recreate Humphrey Bogart’s Sam Spade. But just a few pages in, it became apparent there was more to the plot.

Like so many detective stories, this one starts with a body. But finding out “Who Done It,” is not what the tale is about. Miller finds himself at odds with his boss and soon a fugitive from his own bureau as more obstacles are thrown in his way. The powers that be seem determined to prevent him from bringing the killer to justice. This just drives Miller to fight even harder. But it’s not a fair fight and Miller eventually finds himself on the outside looking in, and trying to decide if he can trust the mysterious agency that offers to help. He needs their help, but isn’t sure the price won’t be too high.

The action is non-stop, gritty, and believable. The author describes little details in procedure that make be believe he has experience in both law enforcement, and elite military units. The technical details and descriptions of violence are realistic and intense, but avoid the plethora of errors so common in books and movies written by people who’s only actual experience with violence is books and movies.

This is a good read that leaves me waiting anxiously for the next book in the series.