..................................FAR OUT, MAN!
................NOW THE MEANIE IS A BOOK
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Friday, March 15, 2013



The first time I met him face-to-face it was a cold – for California – early November night. The Mad Bomber had fallen woefully behind in his rent and it was up to me to either collect, or move him gently on his way without endangering the surrounding neighborhood - or Mr. Cohen’s insurance premiums.

The Mad Bomber was three weeks overdue, which wasn’t an emergency, but I knew if it got to be two months that he owed, I’d have less of a chance of collecting and then he might sit there forever like the Blue Meanie and Mr. Cohen would rightfully fire my ass.

Obviously, I had to handle the situation with extreme delicacy. The thing is, meth freaks have a tendency to blow and in this case the explosion could be a disaster for everyone. 

I got a few friends to keep an eye out for Mr. and Mrs. Mad Bomber. I wanted to catch them the moment they came home from some errand – preferably before they had a chance to get ripped on methadrine. I’d made some attempts a couple of nights before, but once they were ensconced in their little world of gunpowder and speed, it was impossible to get them to answer the door.

Mind you, my preference would be to just get them to frigging move – I wanted no explosive materials anywhere around me. Sure, I could call the cops. But you met Captain Emory, right? Do you think it would be safe to invite Emory to lead a squad of LAPD’s not so finest to the Mad Bomber’s door? What do you think would happen?

Yeah, that was my opinion too.

So, getting a tip from Jan that they were home, I shrugged on a coat against the biting wind coming off the Pacific and trudged over to the Mad Bomber’s apartment.

I recall that Thanksgiving wasn’t far off and to my mind there is nothing like a California beach Thanksgiving. The salty air was crisp and I could hear the waves breaking on the not-so-distant shore. 

Although everyone’s windows were closed to the cold, when you approached the Blue Meanie apartments you could hear music coming from everywhere in the complex.

The windows themselves seemed to act as speakers and as I walked along the alley I could hear everything from the Beatles and the Rolling Stones, to Elvis and Fats Domino and Janis Joplin. And beneath it all I cold hear Kerry and the jug band going through their paces. On the second floor I saw shadows prancing behind the curtains to an infectious percussive beat and I paused to enjoy Jan and Alita trying out a new routine for their topless act. 

I don’t know if they were topless or not – the curtains were pretty thick - but my imagination made them so.

Finally I came to the Mad Bomber’s apartment. The front light was on and to my surprise, I saw a Christmas wreath hanging from the door. An even bigger surprise – I could hear Bing Crosby singing “White Christmas” inside. 

Although Christmas was more than a month away, maybe this was a good omen. How bad could things really be if the Mad Bomber family thought it was Christmas? 

I knocked and a few seconds later the door creaked open and the smell of marijuana and booze poured out. And I found the Mad Bomber peering at me through red eyes.

When he saw me, a huge smile lit his unkempt beard. “Merry Christmas,” he boomed. I said Merry Christmas back, wisely ignoring the fact that that we were still working our way up to Thanksgiving. 

He turned his head and shouted, “Look who’s here, honey.”

He clapped me on the shoulder. “Come on in and have a little Christmas cheer,” he said. But as I stepped inside he looked at me again – doing sort of a double take.

“Who the fuck are you?” he said, but not in an unfriendly manner. Then he snorted. “Fuck it, whoever you are. Siddown and have a fuckin’ drink.”

I saddown. I drank from the pint of Christian Brothers brandy that he offered. Christian Brothers was not my brandy of choice – unless it was either cut with a lot of ginger ale, or if there was nothing else at hand to keep away the foggy, foggy dew. 

I took an extra swallow to gather my faculties and proceeded to explain my mission.

The Mad Bomber scowled at me. “You’re the rent guy, huh?” I admitted I was. He turned to address the closed bedroom door. “Honey, it’s the rent guy.”

I heard a female voice reply, “Just a sec, babe.”

The Mad Bomber rose to his feet. He handed me the pint of brandy. “Keep it,” he said. “I got another.” He patted his back pocket, where there was a definite pint-sized bulge.

Then he lifted a thick, black pea coat off the back of chair. “My wife takes care of all the business, pal. She’ll be right out.” He shrugged the jacket on. “Me, I’m gonna take a walk to the beach and back.” He looked ostentatiously at his watch. “Take me an hour – at least.”

Had he underscored the “at least?” It seemed to me he had. But before I could comment the Mad Bomber was out the door. I looked around the room, confused. It was a small apartment, as I mentioned before, with a large kitchen. 

This Mr. and Mrs. MB had screened off with a curtain of what I now realized were brass cartridge cases all strung together with I later found out was some pretty high test fishing line.

The Guns And Ammo theme was carried through the living room, which was jammed with furniture, all of which had some kind of hunting or fishing or gun motif. Stuff right off the pages of the Shotgun News catalogue. 

There was a scrawny Christmas tree in one corner, traditional lights blazing and decorated with shell boxes painted different colors, old cleaning rods hanging from fishing line, little spray painted reaming brushes, and dozens of what appeared to be painted electronic parts that turned out to be timing fuses and other explosives paraphernalia. 

The tree was topped with a plastic human skull (I hoped it was plastic) painted a shiny silver.

Said tree was framed by two walls racked with guns of every variety. Pistols, rifles, shotguns, you name it. Edged weapons from different armies of various eras were scattered here and there..

As I took this in – as well as another hefty slug of Christian Brothers – the record changer clicked and I heard Bing Crosby sing in oh, so mellifluous tones: “Do you see what I see?” And the white girl soprano chorus echoed, “Do you see what I see?”

It was all very bizarre. And it became even more so when the bedroom door opened and Mrs. Mad Bomber made her - ahem - Entrance.

She posed in the doorway, one hand stretched overhead – like a sexy cover model, one bare leg and foot stuck through the opening of her filmy robe. She wore a sheer, shorty nightie outfit underneath.

As I looked in shock at the hairy armpit, the stubbled legs, the dirty robe and the rest of her – a memory I don’t choose to dwell upon – I recalled Mr. Mad Bomber’s last words: “My wife takes care of all the business, pal… She’ll be right out… Me, I’m gonna take a walk to the beach and back… Take an hour – at least.”

To put it crassly, I think I was supposed to fuck Mrs. Mad Bomber in lieu of rent.

As if cued by my ponderings, Mrs. Mad Bomber ankled the rest of the way into the room, staggering a little after the second step. “Oh, where, oh where did I put that dratted checkbook,” she said in a manner and accent reminiscent of a trailer-trash version of Scarlett O’Hara in “Gone With The Wind.”

She sort of weaved toward me, pointed her butt at the place next to me on the couch, then collapsed  – feet coming up, legs splayed into an unflattering view of her gynecological parts. 

Believe me, if Mrs. Mad Bomber had been the prime example of the Mother Goddess’ miraculous work, there would be no Playboy, no Penthouse, no nada. Well, except maybe with methadrine Mr. Mad Bomber saw something in his true love that I didn’t see. If so, this was the most powerful argument against the drug that I’d ever encountered.

Mrs. Mad Bomber giggled a parody of a feminine giggle and straightened herself up and flashed me this big, big leering smile. Except, the poor thing had been doing speed for so long that her front teeth were a grand display of rotten gray and brown. Sort of like the abandoned store fronts in a ghost town I’d recently passed through in the California desert. Her husband, I’d noted when we’d met, was no better off. 

I estimate that between the two of them they had ten usable teeth – tops.

She said, quite coyly, actually, “You want, we can go into the bedroom where he keeps the gun powder and shit. Put some of the stuff on your dick that’ll blow us both up.”

And she slapped a hairy thigh and laughed uproariously. I was thinking of my pretty Irish wife at home – just a few hundred feet or so away – so blond and creamy white and so clean, clean, clean. 

So what if she was presently whacked on codeine to treat a migraine headache? I’d sit by her side and hold her hand and bathe her temples with cooling, eau-de-cologne. This was a burden I’d much rather bear.

I took another look at Mrs. MB, who once again graced me with her rotten smile. Praise the Lord and definitely do not pass the ammunition. How the hell was I going to get out of here?

“About the rent,” I said, launching into an aimless babble, in hopes that something would eventually come to me. “I’d really rather not take a check. Especially if you guys are sort of short and there’s a chance the check might bounce… It could make trouble for you… Real trouble.”

Flinging her legs aside, none too gracefully to say the least, she said, “Well, me and my husband are big believers in the barter economy. I mean, does it have to be a check, or… you know… cash… or could it be… you know… services… provided…?”

At this point she actually licked her lips over those blown out teeth, believing to the heart of her that she was irresistible. She stared directly at my crotch, which, I am not ashamed to admit, was as limp as a bait worm at a shark-fishing party.

Except, damn it, I was raised to be a gentleman. Who was I to demean a willing woman? Who was I to destroy that woman’s self-image of her beautiful self? Who was I, to say “no.”

“No thank you,” I said as politely as I could. “We have a handyman, a painter, a plumber and there really aren’t any other services that we require to keep the apartments ship shape. But thank you and your husband for offering, just the same. It’s really very generous and thoughtful of you…

“Now, about the rent…”

Okay, what I’d love to say is at that moment the front door banged open and Mr. Mad Bomber stalked into the apartment demanding what the fuck was going on here – expecting to catch me and his wife in-flagrante-delicto. It would be a lovely dramatic device. Oh, if only it could be so, it’d be better than fiction.

Well, as it happens, that is exactly what occurred next. Or almost occurred, at any rate.

After delivering my remarks to Mrs. Mad Bomber, I rewarded my shaky nerves by taking a big honk off the pint of brandy. Mrs. Mad Bomber was staring at me in disbelief, not knowing whether I didn’t I get it, or maybe I did and was rejecting her. 

She waved her raggedy robe back and forth – to reveal, or not to reveal – that was Mrs. Bomber’s question. I took another honk, praying to the Gods of guys who find themselves in this sort of shit through no fault of their own, that I would not be forced to take one more look at a naked part of her, thereby turning me off to women forever.

And then – thank you, Jesus - the door burst open and in stormed Mr. Mad Bomber. “What’s going on here?” he roared.

But he got no further than that. In fact, whatever else he had to say stuck in his throat as he took in the perfectly innocent tableaux consisting of a fully clothed me sitting as far away from his be-robed wife as was humanly possible on a six foot couch.

I jumped to my feet. “I was just explaining to your wife,” I babbled, “that I’d really prefer cash to a check. Because if it should bounce, Mr. Cohen is the kind of guy who will call the cops. Ticks me off when he does stuff like that, but he’s the boss.”

Mr. Mad Bomber looked at me with absolute amazement. He almost seemed ready to cry. “What cash?” he said – and it was almost a whine. “I thought there was gonna be a deal… an arrangement.”

I nodded vigorously. “I can do that,” I said. “Give me enough cash to cover this month’s rent and next month’s as well and I promise there won’t be a late fee. Also, if you do that, and there’s ever a problem in the future, I can plead your case better with Mr. Cohen.”

Mad Bomber only stared at me, not knowing what to say. But his wife was not so tongue-tied. “Give him the fucking money,” she said.

“What?” Mr. Mad Bomber said, his voice almost a whine.

“Oh, fuck it,” said Mrs. Mad Bomber.

She got up off the couch, drawing the robe primly about her, and stalked into the kitchen. She rustled around in the freezer and them came out with an ice cream container and flung it at me.

I opened the container. There was money inside. A lot of money.

“Count it out it yourself,” Mrs. Mad Bomber said. “And don’t forget to leave a fucking receipt.”

A few minutes later I stumbled out of their apartment clutching money in one hand and my balls in the other, thanking God in his merciful heaven for allowing me to escape with them intact.

And I didn’t forget to leave a fucking receipt. A non-fucking receipt, in this case.



During the Vietnam war, GIs who managed to survive their tour of duty were flown home in chartered airliners, which they called “Freedom Birds.” This is the story of three young men – from  wildly different backgrounds – who meet on such a plane and make a pact to spend three days together in San Francisco. Their goal: to spend every cent of  their mustering out money in a party of  a lifetime. And they’ll get more than they bargained for: because when they land, it is July 1967 – in a time that would come to be known as “The Summer Of Love.” A place and time where each young man will have to confront the ghosts who followed them home from the jungles of Vietnam and contemplate a future none of them had imagined. 


The entire 8-novel landmark science fiction series is now being presented in three three giant omnibus editions from Orbit Books.  The First - BATTLECRY - features the first three books in the series: Sten #1; Sten #2 -The Wolf Worlds; and Sten #3, The Court Of A Thousand Suns. Next: JUGGERNAUT, which features Sten #4, Fleet Of The Damned; Sten #5, Revenge Of The Damned; and Sten #6, The Return Of The Emperor. Finally, there's DEATHMATCH, which contains Sten #6, Vortex; and Sten #7, End Of Empire. Click on the highlighted titles to buy the books. Plus, if you are a resident of The United Kingdom, you can download Kindle versions of the Omnibus editions. Which is one clot of a deal!
Here's the Kindle link for BATTLECRY
Here's the Kindle link for JUGGERNAUT
Here's the Kindle link for DEATHMATCH



Two new companion editions to the international best-selling Sten series. In the first, learn the Emperor's most closely held  cooking secrets. In the other, Sten unleashes his shaggy-dog joke cracking sidekick, Alex Kilgour. Both available as trade paperbacks or in all major e-book flavors. Click here to tickle your funny bone or sizzle your palate.  



Venice Boardwalk Circa 1969
In the depths of the Sixties and The Days Of Rage, a young newsman, accompanied by his pregnant wife and orphaned teenage brother, creates a Paradise of sorts in a sprawling Venice Beach community of apartments, populated by students, artists, budding scientists and engineers lifeguards, poets, bikers with  a few junkies thrown in for good measure. The inhabitants come to call the place “Pepperland,” after the Beatles movie, “Yellow Submarine.” Threatening this paradise is  "The Blue Meanie,"  a crazy giant of a man so frightening that he eventually even scares himself. Here's where to buy the book. 


Diaspar Magazine - the best SF magazine in South America - is publishing the first novel in the Sten series in four 
episodes. Part One and Part Two appeared in back-to-back issues. And now Part Three has hit the virtual book stands.  Stay tuned, for the grand conclusion. Meanwhile, here are the links to the first three parts. Remember, it's free!

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