American Scriveners of the Sea: Dana and Melville

Richard Henry Dana, 1842 [Public domain]

August 1 is a banner day for great American sea novels as we celebrate the birthdays of Richard Henry Dana, Jr. and Herman Melville. Both men provided important source information for the nautical aspects of The Relentless Harvest. Melville for his bold American, turn-of-the-century voice and Dana for his remarkable day-to-day accounts of a sailor’s life aboard ship. Both men also raised important questions about the powerless and disenfranchised are echoed in The Relentless Harvest. Continue Reading →

Guns in the Redwoods

Sharps Rifle Photo: Thuringius (Own work) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Why would loggers carry guns? They worked in small crews alone in the forested mountains of Mendocino County. At the time, the area was crawling with black bear, grizzly bear, wolves, and mountain lions, not to mention bands of indigenous Pomos who, even by the early 1850s, still scuffled from time to time with settlers intruding on their territory. So what firearm were they likely to keep handy? Continue Reading →

Walt Whitman Sings the Song of the Redwoods

Whitman in 1875 by Thomas Dewing [Public domain]

Though Whitman may never have “[Faced] west, from California’s shores,” as he trumpeted in one California poem, his opening stanzas resounded with authenticity. I expected the rest of the poem to be a testament to the grace and beauty of the redwood-covered hills and a condemnation of the jack-screw men intent on plundering ancient natural resources. Then I reached the line which read, “not of the past only, but of the future.” Uh-oh. Continue Reading →

Billie Holiday: Master Storyteller

Billie Holiday in Downbeat Magazine, Feb. 1947 [Public Domain]

After listening carefully to her recordings over many years, I’ve come to appreciate the amount of effort Billie Holiday invested in each song and what a skillfully crafted stylist she was. Billie Holiday was no accident of nature. She was a skillful storyteller and has many lessons to offer. Continue Reading →

José Martí Memorial, Cuba in Miniature

José Martí Memorial, Havana

Perhaps Cuba’s most memorable patriot and National Hero, José Martí was born in Havana in 1853 and spent twenty-four years in exile. The José Martí Memorial that dominates Plaza de la Revolución in Havana’s Vedado district, aside from being the tallest structure in Havana, has a story as long and complicated as Cuba itself. Continue Reading →

William Walker: American President of Nicaragua

Mathew Brady [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

The person that would emerge as one of the era’s most ambitious filibusters was a young man from Nashville, Tennessee by the name of William Walker. Early in life, Walker demonstrated remarkable ambition and brilliance, earning degrees in both law and medicine by the time he was 25. A diminutive 5’2″ in stature, he relied on a robust charisma and commanding presence to develop his following and accomplish his goals. Continue Reading →

Waking Up in Berkeley

DJ, West Berkeley Graffiti

It’s a typical weekday morning and at 5:30, the clock radio kicks in. Disoriented, foggy with sleep, I have yet to realize what I’m hearing. Will I be tazed by a screeching Sun Ra freestyle romp that will jangle me out of bed? Repeatedly nudged by Native American chants that go on just a little too long? Irritated and then charmed by a beatified bebop bongo ballad? Continue Reading →

Cuffey’s Cove — Birthplace of a Novel

Looking South From Cuffey's Cove

How Cuffey’s Cove, a once thriving town on the Mendocino coast that is now a ghost town with 3 cemeteries, became the inspiration for the historical novel, The Relentless Harvest. Continue Reading →