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Friday, March 29, 2013



On New Year’s Eve we chogied on down to Hermosa Beach to be wowed by Santana, who was playing at the Lighthouse. I’d recently interviewed Carlos Santana for my newspaper’s entertainment section and he was so happy with the piece that his publicist sent me a handful of tickets for the midnight show.

Santana was a new face in popular music in those days – wowing them at the Woodstock, NY, festival earlier in the year, then going on to record a string of instrumental hits. We were all so excited that we blew out our budget and purchased tickets to an earlier session so we could treat ourselves to two sets. By all, I mean, Carol and myself; Jack Lishman and Jay Thompkins, a buddy of Jack’s who’d just gotten out of the Navy; Roger and Nancy, Kerry Fahey and a knockout blonde chemistry major; and Stoner Tom, who was dateless, but looking.

We had a wonderful time – sitting so close to the band that the conga drums riffled our hair – and although we couldn’t afford a lot of drinks, we kept sneaking out to the parking lot to share a doobie, thus keeping the mood intact. At the midnight show Mr. Santana sent us all a round of drinks and must have said something to the bartender because the drinks kept flowing after that. By midnight we were all ripped and having as good time as any human being could possibly have on a Santana New Year’s Eve.

We piled into the back of Jack’s old hearse and headed home. Led by Kerry, we sang Irish ballads  – “the best sort of tune for a whole lot of drunks to sing,” Kerry swore. If the cops had stopped us they’d have had a wonderful time as the backdoors of the hearse swung out, accompanied by a thick cloud of marijuana smoke and a horde of giggling, drunken young people - a favorite target of the cops in any era.

But the gods of Santana remained with us and we found our way back to Venice without incident, except that Stoner Tom proposed to the girl he’d picked up at the Lighthouse and she’d replied, “Can’t we fuck first?”

He’d said, “My dear, a lady does not say fuck unless she intends to.”

And she’d said, looking around at all of us, “Fuck, isn’t that what I just said?”

And we said, in a Kerry-led chorus, “FUCK, YES.”

Quite unaffected, Stoner Tom replied, “I hope you don’t want children, my dear. If you’re anything like me, the world would be better off if we didn’t reproduce.”

I don’t know what the woman’s reply was, because right at that moment we arrived home and the backdoors swung open to reveal a disconsolate Tasha sitting on our front steps, blood pouring from her nose. Perched beside her was our volunteer baby-sitter, Marita, who was stroking Tasha soothingly and trying to dab the poor dog’s nose with a bloody wad of tissue paper.

Before I could react, Roger hissed, “Shit, would you look at the window?”

He was pointing at our oversized living room window, which was missing, other than some jagged bits around the edges of the frame. The grass beneath the window was covered with glass. Obviously, Tasha had gone through the window.

Tasha whined when she saw us, tried to get up to come and greet us, but then staggered and sank back down.

“She’s bleeding all over the place,” Marita said. “I didn’t know what to do.”

Everybody sobered up, most notably Stoner Tom. He raced to his apartment, got his medic’s kit that he’d saved from Korean DMZ duty, and came running back to treat Tasha’s ripped up nose. She always liked Stoner Tom and sat there without complaint as he anesthetized her nose, stanched the bleeding, cleaned out the glass, sprinkled on a heavy layer of sulfa, then applied a butterfly bandage, while advising us to get to her a vet for stitches.

Carol was already on the phone and no one was open on New Year’s Eve, so Stoner Tom sighed, gave Tasha another shot, and did the stitches himself. Tasha whimpered some, but didn’t move under his touch. By now, Thom Mead had returned from a party of his own and sobered up enough to assist his former medic partner. Thom said that Stoner Tom was noted for the beauty of his handiwork and many an Army doctor had urged him to get his physician’s license and become a plastic surgeon.

While Carol and Marita checked on Jason in Marita’s upstairs bedroom, I quizzed a couple of neighbors who had emerged from their houses drunk, but concerned about Tasha.

“She was like fuckin’ super dog,” said one of the more coherent members of the group.

“Fuckin’ super dog,” echoed his companion.

“She was like barkin’, man,” the first guy continued, “But it weren’t one of her ordinary barks. She was like fuckin’ roaring, man. Like a tiger.”

“Fuckin’ tiger,” said his pal.

“Or, maybe a lion or a bear,” the first guy elaborated.

“Fuckin’ bear,” added his loyal friend.

“Then I heard this, you know, fuckin’ crash, man,” said the first guy. “It was like… like… shit, a fuckin’ big ass crash.”

“Fuckin’ big ass crash,” confirmed his buddy.

“Then I heard a fuckin’ scream, man. And I looked outside and I see this fuckin’ asshole tryin’ to get away on his bike, man, and like Tasha was fuckin’ rippin’ his leg all to fuckin’ pieces. There was fuckin’ blood everywhere.”

“Fuckin’ blood everywhere,” said his friend, throwing up his hands to demonstrate how widespread the gore was.

I looked at the sidewalk and street in front of our apartment and in the lamplight could see they were not exaggerating.

“By bike,” I said, “do you mean a motorcycle?” I was thinking of the Right Wing bikers. I wouldn’t put it past one of them trying to break into the place for any rent money I might’ve had on hand.

“Yeah, yeah, a fuckin’ Trumpet,” he said, meaning the British made Triumph.

“Fuckin’ Trumpet,” agreed his companion.

That eliminated any of the bikers as suspects. They all rode chopped Harleys and would rather die than be seen on a Limey “piece of Lucas Electrics shit.” Lucas Electrics ignition systems were notorious for failing at the slightest hint of moisture in the atmosphere. Something I’d always found odd, considering that Great Britain by no means possessed a desert climate.

“What’re you gonna fuckin’ do, man?” asked the neighbor. “Call the pigs are some fuckin’ shit like that?”

“Fuckin’ shit like that?”” queried his buddy.

I shook my head. “All I’ve got is a broken window and an injured dog. I can fix the window and her nose will heal. But if you see that Trumpet hanging around, let me know.”

“Fuckin’ A,” said my neighbor.

“Fuckin’ A,” agreed his friend.

And then they returned to their wine and whatever, leaving us none the wiser.

Venice always had a high burglary rate, but it had increased by leaps and bounds over the past few months, as had other crimes. Up in San Francisco meth had emptied out the Haight Ashbury communes. The shit had a way of turning normally peaceful, generous people into thieving paranoids. 

Soon as one member of a commune started snurfing meth, the others followed, transforming into Mr. and Ms. Hydes, lurking on one another, stealing hockable possessions and then hitting the streets to rob and even rape. Meth can give you a big fat hard-on and no compunctions about using it.

When the communes blew up and everybody fled, the first people to hit Venice were the good guys. The Peace, Love, Ten Dollar Dope crowd who believed in share and share alike. Greenpeace set up shop, as well a dozen other counter-culture charities. 

But a chill wind soon followed, blowing in the very same crooks and creeps who had bedeviled the Haight. Down at the Venice Boardwalk all was hippie joy and blissful smoke during the day. But when the sun started to go down you’d best be on your way, because the slime balls would come creeping out of the alleys, looking for opportunity – and even murder.

So, it didn’t surprise me that somebody tried to hit our place. After the bikers, my suspicions briefly fell on our resident junkies. But then, they were scared shitless of Tasha who had taken an immediate dislike to them. Maybe it was the heroin seeping from their pores. 

When Ginny – Carol’s college student sister – threw a party at our place a couple of her friends turned out to be smack freaks. In 1970 heroin was a nasty college fad that thankfully died out when students saw their previously much-admired rebel friends drooling in the gutter. Anyway, they shot up in our bathroom and Tasha freaked, practically ripping the door down when she smelled the shit. We had to lock her in a bedroom before we could safely throw the little bastards out.

Tasha had weird prejudices. For example, she didn’t like people in hats. She’d go nuts when the mailman came, but if he tucked his hat in his carrier she let him pass with nothing more than a low growl. She distrusted people who carried canes or sticks, and although she didn’t growl at old people with canes – recognizing that they weren’t real threats – she watched them suspiciously until they were out of sight. 

Bring a policeman to the door with a hat on his head and a truncheon in his belt and she’d go nuts, lunging and frothing at the mouth until I dragged her away and locked in her in the other room.

Good Tasha. Bark at that nasty policeman.

And, of course, she despised smack freaks and let them know her feelings in no uncertain terms.

So, if I were to draw up a profile of our would-be burglar I’d say he/she was probably a crippled heroin addict, who wore a hat and rode a British motorcycle that broke down whenever it rained.

I never encountered such a person, but I kept an eye out for them just in case.

Unfortunately, I had larger problems lurking just around the corner




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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