Reminder: This blog is meant to support authors and their work. It is and will remain apolitical. I reserve the right to edit out comments of a political nature. Thanks to all of you who make this a place to share and review work.
A while back, I mentioned that I would start keeping a few Thursdays open for my posts and a few book reviews. Well, today, I’m starting with Wallace Stegner.
Stegner’s Angle of Repose is a 1972 Pulitzer Prize winner and a fine example of many facets of excellent writing craft. However, I found a “sameness” that permeated the work. Throughout, Oliver Ward struggles to satisfy his wife, Susan Burling Ward. He never quite convinces himself that he is worthy enough for her. His melancholy haunts the reader at every turn. Susan’s feeling of desolation and desire for a more genteel and literary life, expressed in her thoughts and letters, adds to the deep sense of sorrow. This sameness made it challenging for me to read more than one chapter at a time. That said, Stegner’s expert artisanship is evident throughout the novel. His craft is so powerful, so apparent that he can break “the rules” of writing at will with no harm to the story.
Stegner develops his characters so artfully that they become living, breathing people whose attributes and flaws make them into human beings we know and understand. He does not overload the reader with long and exhaustive descriptions. Instead, over many chapters, he reveals small details so that our view of the characters develops as the story unfolds. He gives the reader no more than what is essential.
When the Ward family is separated at the Cheyenne train station, the reader sees and feels hopelessness as a young man runs along the train. The emotion is palpable; one can feel the sorrow. The behavior of another is so vivid one can almost feel the glass he leans against. The family’s estrangement never ends.
Exposition is another tool used well by Stegner. Often writers use exposition to give the reader large doses of information that slows the pacing and can be a distraction. Stegner overcomes that with his exposition in the correspondence between Susan and a lifelong friend. Early on, he uses it to raise the possibility of a lesbian relationship between the two women.
In one of her longer letters, Susan speaks of a trip to San Francisco where she visits several other women from the East who have followed their husbands west. She and the women are alike in their shared feelings of loss.
Wallace Stegner’s Angle of Repose gives the reader many fine examples of his craft. It is not a novel that I enjoyed, nor is it something I would recommend as light reading. However, this is a must-read for writers, students of the craft, and history buffs.
Stegner, Wallace. Angle of Repose. New York: Vintage Books, 2014. Print
Joseph B. Haggerty Sr. Author of the novels: Shame: The Story of a Pimp and An Ocean in the Desert Contributor to the PSWA anthology: Felons, Flames and Ambulance Rides Award-winning poet, writer, and lecturer on the sexual exploitation of women and children in prostitution and pornography.
I’m Joseph B. Haggerty Sr. a retired vice detective and academy instructor from the Metropolitan Police Department in Washington, D.C. (35 yrs). I was a Senior Special Agent in Investigations with the Office of the Inspector General for Amtrak (6 yrs). In 2009, I received an award, Heroes of the Heart, from the organization Children of the Nights in California and was recognized as one of the top ten law enforcement officers in the country for rescuing children from the street. I was President of the Writers League of Washington for nine years. I have been a member of the Public Safety Writers Association since 2010. I have a self-published novel, Shame: The Story of a Pimp, which I wrote based on my experiences investigating child predators in prostitution. I was honored to have 3 short stories and 2 poems published in the PSWA anthology, Felons, Flames and Ambulance Rides. I also have another book from Oak Tree Press, titled, An Ocean in the Desert. A number of my poems have been published in my FOP lodge newspaper and Tears on the Walls was recorded on a CD titled Heroes Unsung. I am married with six children, eleven grandchildren, and eight great-grandchildren.
The first book I wrote was because of the way, and movies and television portray prostitution. They make it look glamorous, safe, and profitable. Most serial killers either start out killing prostitutes or easily convert to killing them. For one good reason, they are easy targets. Pimps are the real problem on the street. They are the real criminals. Prostitutes are the pawns used to make the pimps money and are sacrificed just as easily. I wanted to write about what the street is really like. As a vice detective specializing in going after the pimps in Washington, D.C.( excluding Congress), I learned a great deal about how the pimps do their business and how they get their victims and hold them. My book, Shame, The Story of a Pimp, is just that. It’s a story of a pimp from birth to death, how he learned about pimping and became a pimp. It’s a story of sex and violence because that’s the story of prostitution. It’s a story of the sexual exploitation of children by pimps. It’s a story of the pimp world and pimp law. I interviewed over 5000 prostitutes who worked the D.C. streets in my over twenty-seven years on the street and also interviewed hundreds of pimps. Some of my cases are intertwined in the book. I changed names and locations, but the events are the same.
I’ve also written a book, An Ocean in the Desert, where two private investigators specialize in finding missing children. If they find the child has been a victim of a sexual predator, they offer the child’s family an additional service to guarantee their child will never return to that predator.
I’m in the process of writing a third book, tentatively named Craig’s Follies, which is about a male prostitute who became a professional informant for several police departments across the country as well as Washington, D.C.
A publisher has agreed to publish a book of my short stories about the street and my life as an investigator.
As a Public Safety Writers Association(PSWA) member, I have learned a great deal about writing and other aspects of law enforcement, medical situations, and firefighting. Through the list/serv and our conferences, I have had numerous questions, answers, and ideas for handling plots, characters, setting, point of view, and numerous ways to kill people. PSWA has given me confidence and encouragement for the submissions I have made to the various writing contests for which I have won many awards. I would recommend PSWA to anyone thinking about writing or who has been fortunate enough to have a book, short story, or poetry published.
I wrote my first book in less than a year, finishing it in 1987. I wrote it longhand on a legal pad. It took another couple of years to have it put on a computer disc. After finally having it on my computer and another couple of years of editing, I took it to a literary agent. The agent turned me down, saying the book needed too much editing. I went to another literary agent and got the same answer. I did more editing. I couldn’t afford a real editor as the book was over 500 pages. I went to a third agent, who said I had a snowball’s chance in hell of getting published as an unknown writer. In 1999, I joined a writers group, The Writers’ League of Washington. Through their encouragement and confidence-building, I decided to go the route of self-publishing, and my book, Shame, The Story of a Pimp, was published in 2008.
In Shame, I have several subplots. There are three main subplots. Shame’s mother gets involved with a gambling pimp who rips off the mob. I had one of Same’s women kidnapped by another pimp, and a rescue attempt is made. The third is a policewoman who goes undercover as a prostitute to discover the truth about a murdered friend. One other thing, I’m not sure you could call them subplots, but I didn’t want to just concentrate on Shame’s women. A number of other women worked the street, and the reader will read about them. I wanted the reader to know how they got to where they were. I wanted the reader to see the whole street.
With my first two books, I wrote as a pantser, but with Craig’s Follies, I am outlining. I am also writing a book with another member of PSWA, and we’re outlining with that book.
I have to say that my favorite books are the ones that inspired me to write. The first is The Stand, by Stephen King. I’m not a big Stephen King fan, but the characters he created in The Stand are extraordinary. I am a slow reader, and The Stand is a big book, which was a challenge to me. Still, the characters he created were the driving motivation to read the book in its entirety. The second book that inspired me was Cathedral by Nelson Demille. This book was about Irish terrorists that take over St. Patrick’s cathedral in New York. This was one of those books you can’t put down. The action was non-stop, with great characters and a great story.
You can reach me at: firstname.lastname@example.org
Veteran – TV Cameraman, NASA Journalist, Sci-Fi & Mystery Writer
What’s the name of your most recent book? And could you tell us a little about it and any other books you’ve written? My latest novel is “Death in the Holler,” a mystery published on June 15, 2020. Luke Ryder, the main character, is a Kentucky game warden who’s an alcoholic. He’s in danger of losing his job because of his addiction.
Ryder’s life-long friend, Sheriff Jim Pike, wants to hire him, but only if Ryder can control his drinking. Pike offers to ask Ryder’s boss to give him a temporary transfer if a big case comes up. In Kentucky, game wardens are also law enforcement officers.
A Latino man from Louisville is found shot dead on a farm’s food plot shortly after the beginning of “muzzle-loader” deer-hunting season. Sheriff Pike calls on Ryder to help with the investigation. The two lawmen wonder why a man from a big city ghetto would be killed on a remote farm in a holler, a small, wooded valley. And why was he killed with a modern black powder weapon or perhaps an antique flintlock firearm?
This story is loaded with rough and tumble action, plus a smidgen of romance. Readers tell me that as they follow the story, they constantly root for Ryder to defeat his alcoholism and to find the killer.
Another of my books, “The Knight Prowler, a Novella,” is a mystery about a government researcher whose body is discovered not far from the Livermore Lab in Northern California. Rick Knight, the protagonist, is a TV nighttime crime reporter. His brother, John, is a Livermore Police detective. They team-up in an effort to catch the killer.
How did you come up with the ideas for those two mysteries? The concept for “Death in the Holler” came to me when I was visiting my daughter, Melody, and her husband, Matt, in Kentucky. Matt hunts deer with a crossbow. To attract deer, he plants “food plots” on a relative’s farm. My brother-in-law also lives in the Bluegrass State and has hunted deer. I helped him plant a food plot on his farm years ago. So I wondered, what if somebody was killed on a food plot during hunting season? That was how the idea for “Death in the Holler” was born.
As for “The Knight Prowler,” I wrote that short book to see if I would like writing in the crime/mystery genre. I have a background filming crime news for television, though I did this many years ago. My first jobs after my Army service were news cinematography positions. I covered daytime crime for several years for WMAL-TV (now WJLA), the ABC affiliate in Washington, D.C.
I filmed stories about many bank robberies and homicides. Often I found myself in bad sections of town, usually on my own. More than once, friends asked me if I carried a “piece,” a pistol. I didn’t. I found that most folks in the “bad” part of town were good people. At first, I felt edgy going to murder scenes by myself, often after the police had left the scene. But I grew to like the excitement—I became addicted to taking chances to get stories.
Even now, flashes of memory from crime scenes I visited years ago pop into my mind’s eye. I see money blowing across the street after a bank robbery, a pistol lying near a curb of a major avenue, bullet holes in a door, blood on a concrete sidewalk, and much worse. So, when writing a mystery, I find it easy to realistically picture scenes, even though I’ve invented a purely fictional story. When I think of what will happen in my stories, I daydream. I see the story unfold. I hear the characters talk, and I feel the cold or hot air, the humidity. I imagine smells that waft through the air.
Do you write in more than one genre? In addition to crime/mystery, I write science fiction. I began to write it because I worked for NASA for years. I saw many projects and learned of numerous discoveries that would have been fiction in years past.
What brought you to writing? I was born on Chicago’s Southside. When I was very young, my family moved to a small, two-bedroom house in Milton Township between Glen Ellyn, an affluent suburb, and Lombard. I was lucky to attend very fine public schools in Glen Ellyn. In contrast to many of my schoolmates’ families, mine wasn’t well-to-do. At times we were poor. Later, our financial situation was better. But I have always been sympathetic to poor and downtrodden people.
I was good in science and math at school. English was my weakest subject. Some of my teachers urged me to study to become an engineer or a scientist. But I wanted to do something that could help right the wrongs of the world, journalism. So, I studied TV news when I went to the University of Illinois. That’s where I began to learn to write.
The day after I completed college, I was drafted into the Army during the Vietnam War and was on a jet plane on my way to basic training. The university sent my diploma to my parents’ house. The Army made me a journalist. Early on, my Army newspaper editor taught me the most I’d learned to that point about writing. I wrote for the Ft. Lewis newspaper, “The Ranger,” a weekly that included as many as forty pages. It had roughly 20,000 to 30,000 readers because Ft. Lewis is the size of a small city. I also wrote and hosted an Army radio news program that aired on a few stations in the Pacific Northwest.
After the Army, I worked in commercial TV news. I filmed crime and other news events. Later, I was a broadcast engineer at WMAL-AM/FM, an ABC Network station. While I was having a beer with a NASA official, he offered me a job to write and produce documentary programs for the agency. After joining NASA, I made more than a hundred NASA TV programs. Later, I wrote hundreds of articles and news items for NASA. I earned my living for much of my career writing about news events and discoveries. After thirty years, I retired from NASA. It was then that I decided to take a stab at writing fiction.
What are you working on now? I’ve nearly completed a volume of short stories called “Florida Grand Theft & Other Tales.” It not only contains crime stories but also includes a section of sci-fi short stories. My next mystery novel is tentatively titled “Murder at NASA.” Besides that, I’m planning a memoir about my TV news experiences and my time working at NASA.
How do our readers contact you? My website is an excellent place to contact me at http://www.bluckart.com. There’s a place on the home page where you can send me a message. There’s another page on my site that lists my books and where they can be purchased: http://bluckart.com/books.html.