Gillespie Field Grooves

The fifth Rolly Waters mystery, arriving March 15, 2023, is titled Gillespie Field Groove. Like all of my books, it uses an actual San Diego County location as part of the title (ie Black’s Beach, Border Field, Ballast Point), as well as a setting for some of the action. In this case I’ve used Gillespie Field, a small airport located in the eastern part of the county, in the city of El Cajon.

Gillespie Field runway approach

Like much of San Diego’s infrastructure, Gillespie Field’s history begins with World War II. The land was originally commissioned as a Marine Corps parachute training facility during the war. Marines practiced their parachuting skills there from 1942 to 1944. The field was named for Marine Lieutenant Archibald H. Gillespie, who commanded various California regiments during the Mexican-American War. In 1946 the County of San Diego leased Gillespie Field from the U.S. government and converted it to a public airport. The County was granted full ownership of the land in 1952.

Control Tower at Gillespie Field

As a I explained last month, part of the plot of Gillespie Field Groove is the search for a “lost” Jimi Hendrix guitar. So how was I going to work Gillespie Field into that? I found a couple of ways.

Surrounding the airport on both sides of the runway are a number of industrial parks. Since I’d already come up with a Russian gangster character, it was easy to imagine him running an illicit business out of one of these buildings, perhaps using the airport for moving contraband. A record producer is also one of the characters, so I created a professional recording studio in the area (as I realized later, Doubletime Studios, one of San Diego’s more durable and long-running studios, wasn’t far away).

Last, but not least, the headquarters and showroom for Taylor, San Diego’s high-end guitar manufacturer, is located in one of the surrounding industrial buildings, just a couple of blocks west of the airport. Since one of my characters was a luthier, I decided to have them work at Taylor (although I changed the name to Taybor).

On a reconnaissance visit to the area, I ate at the Gillespie Field Cafe, which sits just below the control tower on the concrete apron with dozens of small planes parked nearby. The restaurant’s patio provides a good view of takeoffs and landings through a widely-spaced metal fence. For those in the know, a pass-coded gate allows access to and from the parked planes. I worked the cafe into the plot as well, although I changed the name of the cafe to Archibald’s in honor of the airfield’s original namesake.

Eat your breakfast while you watch the planes outside
View of the airplanes from a patio table
Biplane takes off from Gillespie Airfield

In addition to all of the above, the San Diego County Sheriff’s aviation division, ASTREA, is headquartered at Gillespie Field. The San Diego Air & Space Museum (located in Balboa Park) maintains a museum annex as well as buildings for restoration work and storage. It all worked out well for the book. I even managed to work in some white-knuckle flight time for Rolly.

Part of the Air & Space Museum’s restoration and repair shop.

Gumbo Ya Ya Christmas

I got inspired and wrote a Christmas song. It’s also a tribute to some of my favorite musicians and their musical city, New Orleans. Have a listen and let me know what you think. Maybe I can make this an annual tradition. And thanks to my brother Bruce for singing it.

Video with lyrics

Boudin on the table, Sazerac in my hand
Allen Toussaint’s playing Winter Wonderland
All my friends are coming over tonight
The family I call dear
We’ll have a gumbo ya-ya Christmas this year

Cold Dixie Voodoo, Cissy made crawfish pie
There’s Oysters Rockefeller from Aunt Clementine
We’ll go caroling in Jackson Square
On a Midnight Clear
We’ll have a gumbo ya-ya Christmas this year

From Vieux Carré to Treme, St. Charles Avenue
Preservation, Frenchman Street – jazz, funk and blues
Santa starts a second line
Trombone Shorty’s here
We’ll have a gumbo ya-ya Christmas this year

Sitting in the kitchen, dishes piled up high
Satchmo sings Is Zat You?  
The ghosts of Christmas sigh
May all your saints come marching in
Let’s raise a cup of cheer
And have a gumbo ya-ya Christmas this year

You can download the song here.

For home studio geeks, here’s a list of the hardware and software I used to write, arrange and record this:
Apple Logic Pro, Quantum 2626 Thunderbolt Interface, Korg SV-2 Keyboard, Aston Spirit Microphone
Instrument Plugins: BFB3 Drums, MODO BASS 2, Grand Rhapsody Piano, Kontakt Electric Mint Guitarist
Mixing & Mastering Plugins: Ozone 10, GW MixCentric, ARC3

Advance Reader Team

I’ve got a new Rolly Waters mystery coming out soon. It’s called Gillespie Field Groove. Would you like to be on my advance reader team?

What is an advance reader team?

It’s a group of volunteers who read and review ARCs (Advance Reader Copies) of an author’s newest books. If you join the team, you’ll receive a free eBook copy of Gillespie Field Groove before its official publication date. In exchange you promise to post an honest review of the book on Amazon (or another book related website).

If you’re interested, just fill out the form below and I’ll send you the details. For more info on the new book, see the announcement here.

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Rolly Waters meets Jimi Hendrix

Poster for Jimi Hendrix concert in San Diego, May 24, 1969
Yes, concert tickets were a real bargain in 1969, even with inflation.
A top ticket then would cost around $45 today.

Hendrix in the West, a posthumous release of live Jimi Hendrix tracks, is one of the earliest, and best, collections of Hendrix live performances. It was also the starting point for my upcoming Rolly Waters novel, Gillespie Field Groove. When I learned that some of the songs on the album had been recorded at the San Diego Sports Arena in 1969 (critic Robert Christgau has called the album’s version of Red House definitive), I started looking for ways to incorporate it into my next book. I had one problem. The fictional Rolly Waters wouldn’t have been born when the concert took place. How could I make a fifty-year-old concert part of his investigation?

Advertisement in the SDSU Daily Aztec for Jimi Hendrix concert in San Diego on May 24, 1969
Advertisement from San Diego State’s student newspaper, the Daily Aztec

Hendrix performed in San Diego three times, but it was recordings from the May 24, 1969 concert featuring the original Jimi Hendrix Experience that were used on the album. I started by doing some more research about that specific concert and learned the following:

  • The Sports Arena concert was one of the last for the original Experience lineup. The tour ended a month later and the group never played together again.
  • The concert was sold out, but a large group of hopeful gatecrashers showed up outside the arena. They became restive and the police were called in. A riot ensued, with cops beating up kids in the parking lot.
  • Backstage at the arena, a promotional contest by local radio station KCBQ went awry when Jimi’s handlers turned away the station representative and the contest winner (the station had not cleared the promotion beforehand with Hendrix or his team).

Based on the above, I imagined the following characters and scenario as a starting point for my novel:

  • The teenaged girl (and contest winner) who was turned away;
  • One of Hendrix’s roadies who was working the concert;
  • The teenaged girl and the roadie meet and run away together after the concert.

So far, so good. But we’re still stuck in 1969. How did Rolly Waters get involved? Here’s the answer I came up with:

  • Years later, after the above characters have died, Rolly Waters is contacted by their daughter who asks him find a Stratocaster guitar her parents claimed to have owned, a guitar once played by Jimi Hendrix.

I was intrigued now. I had something to work with. A puzzle to solve. And off I went. As I worked on the book, it took some unanticipated twists and turns but the initial idea stuck. We’re still a few months away from publication, but I’ll be providing more information in future posts.

P.S. If you want more details about the 1969 Hendrix concert, you can find them in this article from the San Diego Reader. Here’s the recording of “Red House” from the album.

Chekhov’s Russian Brides

Russian brides. Ukrainian brides. Asian and Latin brides. One of these ads has probably made it past your email’s spam filter. If you check your spam box to make sure it’s not blocking an important email, you’ll no doubt find dozens of “bride” ads, along with the usual miracle cures, surveys and get-rich-quick schemes. The ads tend to look and read the same, a grid of photos of attractive young women in skimpy clothes with plunging necklines and some messaging hinting at their matrimonial desperation. Occasionally, as in the ad below, an actual graphic artist seems to have been hired to put together the ad.

I’m sure there are legitimate services offering international online dating but most of these ads are clearly just a scheme to separate lonely men from their money. This kind of scam inspired one of the subplots in my upcoming Rolly Waters novel, Gillespie Field Groove (pub date TBA, early 2023). Further inspiration came from a story I heard about a more nefarious Russian bride grift dating back to the pre-internet era. I heard this story second-hand so I can’t vouch for its complete veracity (and I’m certainly not going to give you names), but here it is.

Sometime during the Glasnost era, a prominent San Diego attorney made a business trip to Moscow. While there he was wined and dined by the local businessmen, going to restaurants and clubs. At one of the clubs he meets a beautiful young woman. They hit it off and agree to stay in touch after he leaves. Back in the USA, he writes her letters and talks to her on the phone. He falls in love and arranges for her to come to the United States. They get married. So far, so good.

After a few months’ of wedded bliss, things start to change. His new wife seems to have relatives, both here and in Russia, who need her husband’s help. Sometimes it’s legal work. Sometimes it’s money. More and more relatives crawl out of the woodwork. Some would like to set up a business and partner with him. Strange and intimidating men show up at his home and his office, suggesting less than legal ways they might make money together.

Our lawyer friend realizes he’s screwed, the sucker in a long con. The lovely young woman he’s married is just a front for a criminal organization. He starts to fear for his professional reputation and his own well-being. To protect himself, he starts taking notes. He’s a lawyer, after all, and he comes up with a plan to extricate himself from the situation.

He doesn’t take any of this to the police. He doesn’t have enough evidence to win a criminal case and fears reprisals from the crooks. He hasn’t been married for long so he’s able to present his case in court and get an annulment (based on fraud). Quick and easy, before any of the bad guys (and girl) know what he’s up to. And it works.

His wife returns to Russia. He waits, fearing some sort of reprisal, but there is none. The criminals dry up, disappear, and move on to their next mark. And he moves on in life, a chastened and wiser man.

That’s my Russian brides story. And that’s why I have girl in a bikini on my website today. As for the title of this post? Well, I have to admit that in my geeky literature major way one of the first things I thought of when I first saw the above ad (okay not the first, first thing) was Chekhov. Not Star Trek’s Chekov but the writer and playwright Anton Chekhov. He was Russian. He wrote a play called The Seagull. He wrote another play called The Cherry Orchard. Both feature young women who are seen as good marriage potential. Chekhov often wrote about the difficulty of bringing two worlds together. Look at the ad again. You see where I’m going with this? Nah, I don’t really either, but that’s how I think sometimes and that’s how I came up with the title for this post.

Which brings me to one other question that came up in my mind as I was writing this. Why do you never see any of these ads for Canadian brides?