Clear the Shelves

Take one of these books off my hands and I’ll give $10 to the CDP Covid 19 Response Fund.

Here’s the deal. I’m stuck at home. You’re stuck at home. As I sit here wondering what to do (other than writing more books), I’m also looking at a bunch of old, odd editions of my previous books that stare down at me accusingly from the upper reaches of my office bookcase. I need to get rid of them. And now I’ve got a plan. But I need you. Here’s how it works:

  • You fill out the form below
  • I’ll sign a copy of the book you’ve selected
  • I’ll send the book to you (free shipping!)
  • I’ll donate $10 to the  CDP COVID-19 Response Fund
  • I’ll post a thank you note to you on my Facebook page

I estimate I’ve got 100 or so of these books sitting around. Some are Advance Reader copies. Some are older editions. Some have artwork or copyediting errors that had to be corrected. But all of them are highly readable and have essentially the same content as newer editions. Help me and help those affected by this pandemic by signing up for your free book below.

* indicates required
Select Your Book *

A Ship on Dry Land

I always try to use interesting bits of San Diego history in the Rolly Waters mysteries. For Ballast Point Breakdown, I got to include the USS Recruit, which has been a notable presence along San Diego Bay since it was first commissioned by the US Navy in 1949. More than 50,000 recruits trained here on a ship that never sailed. The Recruit is now a California historical landmark and part of Liberty Station, a mixed-use development on the site of the former Naval Training Center San Diego. In BPB, Rolly and a couple of security guards chase down a harmonica-playing transient who manages to elude them all while hiding in the ship.

USS Recruit on Google Maps
USS Recruit at Liberty Station
USS Recruit on Wikipedia

He crossed the street, walked to the bottom of the bridge, and took a shortcut through a stand of trees to get down to the parking lot where he’d left his old Volvo. He stepped out of the trees next to a large structure that looked like a Navy ship. The USS Recruit had served as a training platform for new enlistees at the old Naval Training Center, its top deck and tower fitted with the same rigging and cleats found on more seaworthy vessels. The below decks were empty and hollow. Dubbed the USS Neversail by former recruits, the training ship had been decommissioned years ago, then sold to developers as part of a transfer of Navy land to the city.

When Rolly was ten, his father had taken him on board the Recruit, sharing his memories of boot camp and sea voyages, hoping to pass on his enthusiasm for Navy life to his son. He gave Rolly lessons in rigging, how to tie knots and use the marlinspike, but it hadn’t turned Rolly into a sailor. Their disappointment in each other might have started that day.

From Ballast Point Breakdown, chapter 18, The Ship

Fanny was First

It’s been is a good year for The Go-Go’s. First came the fabulous Murder a Go-Go’s anthology of stories based on their songs and now the band is getting a long overdue documentary. I’m looking forward to seeing the movie when it arrives in theaters.

In the late 1970s, early 80s, my band played many of the same L.A. clubs the Go-Go’s were performing in at the time. They had created a local buzz long before their first record came out. I went to seem them at the Whisky a Go Go and they already had that great mix of punky attitude and 1960s girl-group musicality. Beauty and the Beast came out about a year later and was a huge hit, as you probably know. The Go-Go’s were rightly celebrated as the first all-girl band to hit the top of the charts.

But they weren’t the first great all-girl rock band. That was Fanny. Their first album came out in 1970, ten years before the Go-Go’s arrived. Give a listen to to the song Blind Alley below. That’s right. Fanny rawked!

I was fourteen years old when I first saw/heard Fanny on the Midnight Special TV show. As best I can remember my reaction was, well…adolescent male confusion. They sounded like a real rock and roll band. But they were girls. Girls didn’t play music like that. I wasn’t anti girl rockers, but…my aspirations to become a rock star were closely related to my being a quiet, nerdy male person who played an instrument reasonably well. I joined other male persons of the same sort to make a loud, rhythmic and occasionally melodic sound. That’s what rock bands were supposed to be. And now there was this! Mind blown.

Other folks were probably as confused as I was, maybe more so. Fanny did pretty well for their time, considering the level of sexism in the music industry. A couple of their songs made it into the Top 100. David Bowie promoted them and Barbara Streisand hired them as her studio band. They toured with Jethro Tull, Slade, and Humble Pie (the last two seem like particularly good match).

Anyway, thanks to the wonders of internet and music streaming, you can now give Fanny the listen they deserved all those years ago. Some links below:

Proceed to the Crocodile!

In Desert City Diva (both the book and the podcast), Rolly Waters’s investigation leads him to a late night rendezvous at a place known as Desert View Tower. Someone calls to him from the rocky boulders above – “Proceed to the Crocodile!”

You’ll have to read the book to know what happens next, but the crocodile and other animal sculptures described in the book are real. They’re part of what’s known as Boulder Park, adjacent to the Tower, with folk art carved by a man named Merle Ratcliff in the 1930s during the Great Depression.

Stone animals guarding an entrance to Boulder Park.
First you have to face the snake.
Then pass the buffalo
Lions guard another entrance
Not sure what he is, but you don’t want to mess with him.
Secret entrances and tight squeezes
Proceed to the Crocodile!

I’m always looking for interesting locales and places in San Diego County to include in the Rolly Waters mystery novels. Desert View Tower and Boulder Park made a great setting for chasing after scofflaws and escaping from villains.

Desert View Tower Entry on Wikipedia
Vacation Rentals as Desert View Tower
Desert View Tower for Sale
Desert City Diva – the Novel
Desert City Diva – the Podcast

DCD Podcast Music

One thing I decided when we started putting together Desert City Diva: The Podcast was that we needed a theme song. Nothing says “high production values” like your own custom musical theme. I whipped out my trusty Garageband software and put together the number below:

Drums, bass, and a couple of repeated keyboard chords came first. I played around a bit and finally came up with a melody that had the right feel (and sounded guitarlike). Then a little tag for all the instruments to play at the end. Rolly’s Theme was born. Not exactly Hans Zimmer or Danny Elfman level scoring, but not bad for a podcast.

The theme did prove fairly malleable, though. After Kyrsten Hafso-Koppman, who plays Macy, started humming along with the tune during rehearsal, we captured her voice on tape and I built a slightly different version of the tune. I call this one Macy’s theme:

I passed the tune over to guitar pro (and former bandmate) Ian Vatet with instructions to “come up with an acoustic guitar version of this, like Rolly might play at home”. Here’s what he came up with:

Nice, huh? I think so.

There’s more music from the podcast posted on SoundCloud, including some “atmosphere” stuff and the blues jam Ian produced on his own (my instructions – “killer guitar player sits in with adequate garage band”).