Just a bit of writing news to pass on. Please indulge me as I take you through a backstory and a bit of whimsy. I have been working at intervals – sort of an off and on thing as the urge presents itself -- on another military history book. During the gap between starting new sections of the manuscript I pulled some pieces of various kinds off the shelf that I had written in the past. These were mostly items that I had scribbled out just to play around with or because the subjects were interesting to me. I had not tried to find markets for them. I was skimming through some magazines and trade journals the other day to see if by any chance any publications jumped out as possible outlets for any of them. That’s the backstory.
This is the bit of whimsy: I ran across a journal called Spank the Carp. Wow, that’s a great title. I had not previously heard of it. I went to the website to check it out and discovered an interesting publication. The magazine’s offerings are very eclectic: fiction short stories, creative non-fiction, poetry, even some science fiction. They publish a monthly e-journal and a yearly print anthology. The version currently on line has three short stories, four poems of various styles, and a work of creative nonfiction. What caught my eye as I was reading about the magazine was the mention that it also publishes flash fiction. As the name suggests, flash fiction seeks to tell a story rather quickly: the usual limit is about 800 words. It is a style that apparently is growing in popularity.
When I first ran across descriptions of flash fiction a few years ago, I thought it would be an intriguing style to play around with. I eventually scribbled out a small work of 756 words. I have not previously tried to find an outside venue for it, so somewhat out of curiosity – or maybe a feeling of “what have I got to lose?” -- I sent it to Spank the Carp. Last week I received an email from the editor saying that he had accepted the piece for publication and hoped to get it in the June issue. Surprise treats are always the best kind and that was a nice surprise. I do not write much fiction at all and this is the only piece of flash fiction that I have messed around with. I may include a copy of it in a future newsletter but because of the magazine’s copyright restrictions, I am not allowed to do that until it first appears in their publication.
In the meantime, work progresses at a modest pace on a military history book that – if it ever sees the light of day – will bring us up to date on military leaders who have done exceptional things but who history has mostly overlooked. As I mentioned last month, I am currently working on the Vietnam portion. Among the commanders I am writing about are two who led forces during the Tet Offensive and two more who played key roles in the attempt to rescue POWs from the Son Tay prison camp. There is quite a bit in open literature about Tet, not as much on Son Tay. Fortunately, though, Amazon has come through with some very good references.
Like many aspects of Vietnam, I suspect the Tet Offensive will provide fodder for PhD theses for generations to come. Militarily, the campaign was a disaster for the North Vietnamese and Viet Cong forces. Their losses were catastrophic and all but wrecked major Viet Cong formations as effective fighting forces. But, in an outcome that surprised even the leadership in Hanoi, the size of the attacks, tens of thousands of forces committed; the scale of the offensive, nationwide attacks that included all major cities, provincial capitals, and U.S. air bases; and the enormous casualties that resulted on all sides, contributed to the shift in public support for the war among the American populace. The timing of the attack, coming soon after U.S. military and political leaders had provided assurances that the war was going well and that the corner had been turned, further soured public sentiment.
My initial plan for the book was to begin with the Cold War and then follow with Korea, Vietnam, and the Gulf War before concluding with Iraq-Afghanistan (which, hopefully – for so many reasons – will be the last one to write about). I am considering though, a suggestion to also include in the book events such as Grenada and Panama and maybe Kosovo – actions which involved the deployment of substantial numbers of U.S. forces and resulted in combat operations. Doing that would make the book more challenging to write and longer to complete. But, it may also make it more interesting and further differentiate it from other works of its kind. I’ll need to think about that some more – a process will take some time and considerable cups of coffee.
I am currently reading a book titled Presidents of War (Michael Beschloss, Crown Publishing, 2018). It is a work about the wartime presidencies of Madison, Polk, Lincoln, McKinley, Wilson, Roosevelt, Truman, and Johnson. The book looks at the actions they took, their preparations for war, how they handled the job, their mistakes and achievements, relations with Congress and the public, and so forth. Some did their main chores very well; others were at best mediocre. The section about Johnson has been useful background for the manuscript I am working on. LBJ may turn out to be a Greek tragedy figure in American history. Except for Vietnam, a war which caught him in conflicting pressures from several directions and which he handled poorly, his would have been a rather formidable presidency. I think though that at least in my lifetime, the model for how to prepare a nation for conflict and how to handle the war that follows is George H.W. Bush in the Gulf War (Operation Desert Storm). Bush was not one of Beschloss’s subjects. Other than a book by Jon Meacham titled Destiny and Power, not much in the way of a major work has been written about that presidency. Too bad; I hope someone will do justice to it someday.
Well, that’s enough, or more than enough, for this month’s edition. This is being written on a Sunday afternoon, so Nita and I will need some time to get emotionally prepared for tonight’s presentation of Game of Thrones :-). Only one more week left in the series after tonight. We’ve enjoyed it – and I have been intrigued by the pacing of the stories and the skillful way in which the very large number of plot lines have been brought together. Some of the computer generated graphics – e.g., the dragons – have been marvelous to see as well. Hope the finale will not be a disappointment.
And now, once again for the seldom requested feature WHO SAYS THEY DON’T WRITE GREAT POETRY ANYMORE. This month’s verse is a Golden Oldie that originally appeared in the July 2012 newsletter.
Reassessing Robert Frost
He had miles to go before he slept,
through a forest dark and deep.
He took the path less traveled
and was run over by a jeep
Best wishes to all. Have a great summer.