In Grand Delusia

In the land of Grand Delusia, I roam again. It is true enough that an author of fiction must persuade a reader to come along for the ride, but first the author must cajole himself. It is not a simple thing. The Lesser Existentials crowd at every side. There are shores of things to do. Mountains of bills to pay. People to see about and weather to weather. Never mind the need to rest. There is little time for play. . . . And yet, without it, all the rest and all the weather or not, mean little or nothing.

Come again?

Longtime readers of this ethereal site may recall another project of that near past of some years ago when, soon after one more attempt to write A Republic of Books, I faltered again and in frustration launched myself headlong into another of my grand delusions, A Young Man From Mars. I posted several parts here and spent a year on that before running aground on the aforementioned shoals of the Lesser Existentials. I had then recently completed two mystery novels, Hound and A Slepyng Hound to Wake and that feeling of accomplishment buoyed a belief that I could undertake the larger project. I was wrong. My map was missing parts. My compass wanted other directions. read more…

A Young Man From Mars: the future retold


“Those who cannot remember the future are condemned to repeat it. The past can never be repaired or reclaimed. The future may be reimagined at any moment, possessed at any time, and thus easily known.”   Joe Trees


This is the journal of Griffon Macdonald, his expedition to Earth, and what he found there; being also an accounting of some other matters learnt during that doctoral investigation into mankind’s persistent use of slavery as a means.


Offered here with additional records from the Council Court of Inquiry as well as the emendations and notes of his brother Robert.


It is said that after two-hundred years Joe Trees still lives somewhere amidst the forests of Mars. It is a legend, a myth perhaps, but a tale retold often enough to have its own life. It is believed that men do not live so long, so perhaps he is no longer a man.






# August 19, 2267: the origin and cause of my zetetic


From various sources, but mostly the words of my father, I have fashioned here a short account of an ancient relative, Flora Macdonald—Fionnghal nic Dhòmhnaill in the old Gaelic. She was the daughter of Ranald MacDonald a tenant farmer of Milton, which is on the island of South Uist in the Hebrides, an archipelago close by to the northern reaches of Scotland, on Earth, and of his wife Marion, herself the daughter of Angus MacDonald. It is thus that our clan was from the one root, though the MacDonalds were prolifically spread throughout those lands. Flora was born about 1722. It was her father’s unfortunate death when she was yet two years old that brought on the wooing of a cousin from the Isle of Skye for the affections of her widowed mother.

Now Marion had small property of her own but was a great beauty and even more than that a woman of adamantine will. She was not interested in this cousin. However that be, the cousin, Hugh Macdonald of Armadale on the isle of Skye, would not put off his love and finally kidnapped Flora’s mother by force, as well as Flora who was then the youngest of the children and still unweaned, and carried them off to his home across the near sea to the Isle of Skye. This was often the way of those times. And thus, Flora was raised among this other sect of her clan, amidst greater fortunes, even to be educated in language and math and the truths of the Bible and that stern God and the ways of the Kirk, as was the manner of the Scots of the time. But Flora never lost the sense of where she was from, nor of the sentiments of her true father—these things being kept for her by her mother’s heart. And when Flora was old enough she returned on visits to her older brother who had maintained the family stead and managed to buy some of his own land as well on the Isle of Benbecula.

It was during one such visit and on a particular morning when Flora had been gathering seaweed at the rocky shore for her brother’s furrows and the air was thickened by the vapor of a steel grey ocean, that a pitiful young man and his companion appeared out of the veil of mist seeking refuge from the numbing cold. The fog could not conceal this man’s fear, nor his bearing. The Stuart claim to the throne had failed at bloody Culloden some months before and now the Hanoverian troops were hounding the rightful prince of Britain, Charles Edward Stuart, to those ends of the Earth. Flora had little use for such a ‘Prince without a palace.’ Though a daring horseman, a fine bowman, and the master of five tongues, he must yet have been a sad sight in battered britches and broken shoes.

Flora’s own stepfather, who had taken the winning side, was a captain in the search. But something else was now at work. She knew her own sentiments, and that the faith of her true father were in the Stuart cause. It was being said, ‘any that helped the fugitive Jacobite would suffer punishment,’ and few others could find the courage to risk what little they had, only to trade masters, or just to be hung for the difference.

But the young prince was a symbol to many. And symbols are more important when the facts are hard against. read more…

A Republic of Books, et tu?

The original story idea for A Republic of Books was conceived shortly after I was forced to close my own bookshop, Avenue Victor Hugo Books, on Newbury Street in Boston after 29 years. The tale was imagined as a means of relieving some of the pain while grasping the reasons for what had happened. There were many mundane factors involved—lack of funds, poor planning, bad decisions—all of which fell on my head more than my shoulders, but each of those had a context and history of their own, while each reeled off to more causes and consequences, and my attempts to fathom the whys and wherefores was more than I could handle at once. Yet, it was crucial only to me. My family certainly had to deal with the consequences of my actions, but the actions were mine, and I wanted to understand them, even after the fact. Many decisions had been made in the heat of a moment or as triage when choices were few. In addition, there were actions that preceded those that brought them to the crisis when the mistake was made. And there were so many such moments. read more…

Act 4: Scene 2 ; the problem with fire

[A revised morsel from A Republic of Books, the novel in progress to be found elsewhere on this ethereal site.]



Act 4: Scene 2

the problem with fire



The bookshop is closed. The lights are low. Deirdre and Michael are sitting down stage, center right, on two stools. A bottle of bourbon is on the floor. They both have glasses in hand.



So, what are we going to do? How do we save the shop?



Well, here’s the problem. The good guys won’t fight dirty because that would only make them bad guys. The bad guys will always fight dirty because that’s who they are anyway. Result—all else being equal—the bad guys often win the battle.



Are you are saying that the good guys have to fight dirty?



No. I’m saying that most of the time, the good guys should not fight at all. read more…

Winkling out the meat of a nut

when the fool is unable to sleep

(Late thoughts from A Republic of Books, the novel in progress, more of which may be scavenged elsewhere on this ethereal site.)


Philosophers have turned away from purpose and became obsessed with means, as with math—a mere tool that becomes an end to itself. I have known many a fellow who collected tools, but built very little, making of themselves first kin to those professors of math who fashion whole philosophies from their calculations, as if the value of things and the purposes of the people who care for them might be determined by a hammer. Tool collectors pore over catalogs and lust for more. They could tell me what the best chisel is for any particular purpose but appear to have no project before them worthy of the device.

“Build a bookshelf,” I say.

“Why that?” they ask.

“To fill it with books,” I suggest.

“I have enough shelves for my books now,” they inform me.

“Then buy more books! And read them! You might discover what it is you should be doing with all those tools.”

But their tools are as much a means for them to finding order in the universe as my books are to me. Perhaps more so, in so far as I cannot tell you what every book I own is good for. And the professor of math only wishes a precision to his quest for order that he thinks is unattainable from the pages of a book—and thus he is wrong. Such order is only necessary for machines. read more…

Love in black and white

In mid-winter, Valentine’s day means Oscar will soon be coming out of the closet to look in the mirror. If he sees himself, it will be a good year at the multiplex. But sometimes you have to look through the thorns on the odorless long-stemmed roses to find anything. If not, there is always Netflix and the great stuff from film history.

A friend posted a frame from the great romantic film, The Ghost and Mrs. Muir (1947), and it got me to thinking. The Academy Awards are about to come around and I really don’t give a damn. A sad frame of mind to be in. I love film, but I haven’t watched that particular exercise in poor taste in many years, and not only because of the wanton exhibition of narcissism and repetitious glorification of cynicism, or even the self-righteous politics, but because so few films are simply worthy of my interest, or the twelve bucks! This year, the only movies on the list of best films that I actually saw were Dunkirk and Darkest Hour, and they were both fine, though I liked Darkest Hour more. But there isn’t another nominated that I would watch for free on the telly. read more…

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Novels & Novellas Available for Purchase

I Am William McGuire

I Am William McGuire

It’s a bloody Cro-Magnon world.
What’s a Neanderthal to do?


A Slepyng Hound to Wake

A Slepyng Hound to Wake

Leaving well enough alone is not good enough at all—not if the reason for a death is to be found in the life that was lost.


Henry Sullivan has made a simpler life for himself, finding and selling books. There is little room in it for either love or murder.



I have been informed by trusted authority that the short quip which I have placed here for the last year or so, by way of biography, lacks gravitas. “Over-paid by others for hyphenated jobs such as lawn-work, snow-shoveling, house-painting, office-boy, dish-washer, warehouse-grunt, table-waiter and hotel night-clerk–I’ve since chosen to be a writer, editor, publisher, and for most of my life, a bookseller, and even managed to occasionally pay myself. Hound is my first published novel.” And so it does. It is hard to be serious about so unserious a subject as oneself. But herewith, and keeping the ‘nasty bits’ (Brit expressions are so brilliant) to myself, I offer then, this ongoing post begun as posts at Small Beer Press. If anyone is interested, from time to time I will add something at the end to bring the epic closer to the present moment.