“The Kabul Conscript” is available.



My latest novel, The Kabul Conscript, was published February 26—just in time for the pandemic—not the best timing for promoting a new book! I have not been able to do in person author events, but the novel is available from any independent bookstore by special order, and of course on amazon and other internet sites.

Although the story is entirely fictional, it is set in Kabul, Afghanistan during the coup of 1973, when I was a Peace Corps trainee there. I like to think I captured some of the flavor of that exciting time, a few years before a series of disasters engulfed that country.

The Kabul Conscript is a sort of prequel to Cape Decision, published in 2019, but the novels can be read in any order.

My publisher, Village Books, will mail it anywhere in the USA for 99 cents. Support our independent bookstores!


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Will small live music venues survive the epidemic?

Small live music venues have the same future they have had for the last several decades—very limited and circumscribed. Since stricter drinking and driving laws, and with so many options for home entertainment (cable TV, internet), live entertainment, be it music or theatre, has suffered. The current plague adds yet another obstacle.

In the future live entertainment will continue to be an ever smaller part of the overall entertainment “industry,” but it will never completely die. It will go through periodic “revivals,” like some forms of music do.

In “Burning Chrome,” by William Gibson, the author describes such a scenario in a short story. A “throwback” live rock band plays in a small club as an obscure opening act. Unusual because they play their own instruments—rare in the future world the author describes.

I can imagine a not so distant future where most live music is performed in homes and private residences or compounds, with audience by invitation only. Clubs that do survive will have someone at the door checking the attendee’s temperatures, as they are already doing in China. Perhaps an I.D. card or chip implant that can be scanned before entry will be required for entry—another “workaround.”

Humans, after all, are quite clever, if not always wise…

Biographers of the Future

This seems like the appropriate place to post these thoughts. The irony does not escape me.

I have been reading biographies lately, including one of Patricia Highsmith, and the classic “To The Finland Station” by Edmond Wilson. In these works the authors had access to the copious letters of the subjects in addition to their more public writings. These days far fewer letters are written. I know this in part because my wife used to work for the post office, and letter deliveries are down – way down – enough so that the post office relies on advertising fliers and bulk mail for much of its income. This trend of course started back in the 1990s with the popularization of email, and now it has gotten to the point that the only time most people send “snail mail” letters is perhaps a holiday letter or special occasion card. Even then many people just email or text a greeting. I must confess that I rely totally on email and messaging these days, and have for nearly two decades.

So it seems to me the job of the biographer will be if not more difficult, at least different in the future. When most folks, even writers, communicate through email or networking sites, the job of the historian or biographer will entail gathering perhaps critical insights and personal information from the internet. Much of this is fleeting. How many times have we changed our email providers, only to loose all of our email exchanges – sometimes years worth. Whether this will make the biographer’s job more difficult or easier is hard to say. In many ways much of what used to be private correspondence between two people is now much more public. In the past one might have written to a close friend or trusted relative. Now similar personal information is given to everyone (even strangers) on facebook or other networking sites, but those revelations may be more censored or deliberately dissembling then the contents of a personal letter. The word “friend” itself has changed its meaning in the context of the internet.

This does not negate the need for the well written and insightful biography. In spite of the proliferation of personal information on the internet, there will still be the desire and need for distilled and cogent appraisals of the lives of certain individuals, and it will still take a sensitive and skilled writer to pull all of the scattered threads together to create a narrative from the parts and pieces. The narrative is what we crave. The idea that a life is in some sense a story, and story is life. We will always need talented and perceptive writers to create this narrative, but those writers will find the cacophony of voices on the internet to be a problematic, albeit necessary resource.

Theatre in 1880’s Montana

“Our stage was in an old shed next to a pigpen, and our curtain was a white sheet Johnny Spiker had swiped out of their hotel. The ‘theatre’ was just the back of the Spiker Hotel and Saloon, and we borrowed empty beer kegs for our audience to sit on. The curtain was fixed to be drawn along a wire in front of the stage. When the show opened the curtain was drawn across the wire to the edge of the pigpen. As the weeping leading lady finished her song, and fell to faint to the floor, the curtain was then to be drawn back across the stage, hiding the stage so we could prepare for the next act. It never happened, for when the boy who was tending to the curtain reached for it, it was gone. It seems one corner of the sheet protruded into the pigpen. It looked to the pigs like it might be edible, so while the acting was proceeding on the stage, the pigs ate our curtain. The audience, judging by their applause and laughter, evidently thought this was the best part of the play. That first act was the one and only one, and the show ‘did not go on.’”

That was how my great-grandfather, Roy Fitzgerald describes their childhood efforts at producing their own play in 1880s Gardiner, Montana. (See my previous post for more on the discovery of this autobiography.) Those of us who have ever produced, directed, performed in, or in any way participated in community theatre will be sympathetic!