A Wretched Man, a novel of Paul the Apostle(published 2010)
How did the Apostle Paul, who never met Jesus and who was not one of the disciples, become the most important person in the history of Christianity, apart from Jesus? This work of historical fiction explores the life and times of the the man from Tarsus.
Paul drew adversaries like a moth to a flame: Jews of the synagogue, pagan temple priests, Roman authorities, and James, the brother of Jesus. With each step along countless miles, Paul carried the rejection and disapproval of James in Jerusalem, the brother who inherited the mantle of leadership following the crucifixion of Jesus. Christianity was born of the often contentious relationship between the Apostle Paul, missionary to the Gentiles, and James, the brother of the Lord and leader of the Jesus movement in Jewish Jerusalem. For nearly thirty years after his celebrated conversion on the road to Damascus, the Apostle Paul trudged the highways of the Roman Empire to share his good news with the Gentiles, but always under the skeptical eye of the friends and family of Jesus, his original Jewish followers, who remained in Jerusalem.
Journey with Paul on his pilgrimage. Shiver with him around a mountain campfire, breathe deeply of the aromas wafting through a teeming marketplace, sway with the veiled Temple dancers to the melodies of the harp, savor a tangy goat stew in a tumbledown hut in a nameless hamlet. Along the way, you will witness the birth pangs of Christianity.
The Woodsman (published 2011)
Growing up in rural Minnesota, I knew my way around the hardwood stands of the “Burtrum Hills”. My dad grew up on a stony farm near these hills, and the woods were a source of sustenance for his depression era family; splitting oak logs meant fuel for the woodstove and the cookstove and not merely a glassed-in fireplace; ducks and venison were meat for the table.
Later, when he brought my brother and me to the woods, it was no longer for necessities but as a ritual remembrance. Dad made firewood for the fireplace where we roasted venison sausages in the middle of winter; it would have been easier to cook beans and weanies on the electric stove but not as much fun.
In The Woodsman short story, I meant to capture some of the ritual celebration of life that occurred with every trip to the oak and maple forests, but the story also has a tinge of sadness as winter closes in.
Vietnam Short Stories (Published 2011)
From the summer of ’69 to the summer of ’70, I served as an Army Ranger in the central highlands of Vietnam. The LRRPs of Vietnam (Long Range Reconnaissance Patrol) were the cavalry scouts of their war, traveling by helicopter rather than mustangs into remote and unfriendly territory. The mountainous jungles of the central highlands were especially inhospitable, filled with snakes and wild animals, and criss crossed with the tributaries of the Ho Chi Minh trail that lay hidden beneath the thick, triple-canopy jungle foliage. It was the job of small teams of LRRPs to penetrate the ridges and valleys of the rainforest to track and identify enemy activity.
I have penned a series of short stories based on actual events, but with literary embellishment that I call “autobiographical fiction”. The stories are less about patriotism and heroism than about the gut-wrenching reality for the Vietnam combat soldier. This series is not for readers looking for action-adventure. Combat soldiers are celebrated for simply doing their best to get by, not as superheroes, but as young men who often acted heroically but sometimes foolishly in circumstances not of their own choosing.
One reviewer commented “the bond and the folly of immortal combat ring loud and clear from the page, and the story’s told with all the realism, language and pathos of experience.” The mood of the stories is dark and somber rather than triumphalistic: a hauntingly honest and brutally true retelling rather than a glorification of the Vietnam experience.
From the opening scene in Tiger Village of Fort Polk to the drunken celebration at the conclusion of a torturous “hump” through the jungle of the central highlands, Eleven Bravo chronicles the life of the Vietnam infantryman. Fresh from training as an 11B, the MOS for the combat infantry, a young soldier arrives in-country as astronaut Neil Armstrong walks on the surface of the moon, and a month later he is a grizzled veteran who celebrates life listening to Jimi Hendrix’ Purple Haze, even as the rock star performs it live at Woodstock.
Eleven Bravo opened the series and introduced a young infantryman who endured a torturous twenty-three day hump through the jungle that exposed him to the horrors of war. At the conclusion of Eleven Bravo, the young soldier volunteered for the LRRPs. Here comes Charlie is the second of the series and introduces the four-man LRRP team on a mission to the field. On a mountain ridge with scant cover, North Vietnamese soldiers unwittingly head straight toward the LRRP team hiding in the tall grass. As the LRRP’s hug the ground, the team leader whispers, “Here comes Charlie.”
With striped face paint and tiger fatigues, four LRRPs creep through the jungle. Cat quiet stealth is their only ally, allowing them to achieve their goal: a safe perch on a mountainside plateau from which they can maintain a lookout over a vast valley in the mountains of Vietnam’s central highlands, but the idyllic scene is not as it seems.
The first three short stories were set in the mountains and jungles of Vietnam’s central highlands, but Chasing After Wind takes place on the Ranger company grounds in the base camp of An Khe. Yet, this installment is no less bold, dark, and intense than the earlier stories that recounted missions in the field. Chasing After Wind considers twists of fate in the context of a barracks poker game, a wind that blows where it will, and a malevolent joker in the deck. The title is derived from this epigraph borrowed from Ecclesiastes: “No one has power over the wind to restrain the wind, or power over the day of death; there is no discharge from the battle … all is vanity and a chasing after wind.”
A Bible verse about the prophet Elijah serves as the epigraph–”If I am a man of God, let fire come down from heaven and consume you and your fifty.” 2nd Kings 1:10–and introduces the theme of calling down hellfire when the meager firepower of a four-man LRRP team was insufficient. The short story includes brief episodes of calling for artillery rounds, Phantom jets, and Cobra gunships.