Here’s another song of mine I used in my first book, Black’s Beach Shuffle. In the books, of course, I give Rolly Waters the songwriting credit. One of the songs he sings in BBS is called Hercules.

There was a man named Hercules
He had the kind of muscled he could do just what he pleased
But even he was not exempt
He had to clean the stables where a thousand cattle slept

I don’t recall exactly how I started writing the lyrics for this one. It’s basically a rewrite of the Greek mythology of Hercules in abridged form. The first verse references one of the Twelve Labours of Hercules, the quest to cleanse the Augean Stables. I used it to show how even the most heroic men have to deal with a lot of crap :-). The second half of the verse then turns it around and makes it personal by comparing the singer’s personal travails to Hercules’ labours. It’s not biographic per se, but more of a songwriting conceit, a framework I wanted to use for the lyrical structure. I’ve always admired Joni Mitchell’s Big Yellow Taxi and the deft turn she makes in the last verse where all her societal concerns turn to thoughts on her own failings. This is not BYT, lyrically or musically, but that song might have inspired my thinking.

Here’s the version recorded by my band Bad Dog circa 1992. The lyrics are listed below.

There was a man called Hercules.
He had the kind of muscle he could do just what he pleased.
But even he was not exempt.
He had to clean the stable where a thousand cattle slept.
Now I may not be quite that tough
But I can move a mountain if I have reason enough
I will not faint, I will not fade
And will I take a shovel to this mess that I have made.

Have a little faith in me.
I need the strength of Hercules
Have a little faith in me.
I am not like Hercules.

There was man named Hercules.
He killed his wife and family, then he fell down on his knees.
For he could not believe his eyes,
He thought they were his enemies and wearing a disguise
So I may bite, and I may bark,
But when you look at me that way I fall into the dark.
I try to speak. I try to stand,
But all the things I try to be keep falling from my hands.

Have a little faith in me.
I need the strength of Hercules
Have a little faith in me.
I am not like Hercules.

There was man named Hercules.
He saved a silent princess from a monster in the sea.
But he was not paid back in kind,
And he had to live forever with that woman on his mind.
And then there’s me, and then there’s you.
If I were a stronger man I’d know just what to do.
I’ll never know the price you paid
To have me come and rescue you and change the plans you’d made.

November Crime & Thriller Highlights

Some new mysteries and thrillers you might want to read this month.

Chimera Island. For more than a century, the tiny atoll has been the subject of legend and rumors. Mysterious sightings. Strange deaths. Unexplained disappearances. A transport plane sent to Chimera to evacuate frightened scientists from a climate research station on the island disappears, along with a Chinese spy ship prowling nearby waters. The U.S. Coast Guard sends its most secret team to investigate, Deployable Specialized Force-P—the P is said to stand for phenomenon. DSF-Papa, led by Lieutenant Commander Douglas Munro Gates, discovers there is more to the legend of Chimera Island than rumors and folklore. The climate research station is wrecked. Strange creatures skulk through the jungle overgrowth. And reality may not be as it seems. Worse, someone – or something – is determined to stop the Coasties from discovering the truth about the island. With evacuation impossible, DSF-Papa must discover the secret of Chimera Island or become part of its legend.

Available at Amazon

Rick Cahill is finally living a settled, happy life. His fiancée, Leah Landingham, is pregnant with their first child and he is doing PI work that pays well and keeps him out of danger. Then a doctor gives him the bad news about the headaches he’s been suffering—CTE, the pro football disease that leads to senility and early death—a secret he keeps from Leah and his best friend Moira MacFarlane.

When Moira asks him to monitor her son, Luke—who’s broken a restraining order to stay away from his girl-friend—a simple surveillance explodes into greed, deceit, and murder. Luke goes missing, and Rick’s dogged determination compels him to follow clues that lead to the exploration of high finance and DNA cancer research.

Ultimately, Rick is forced to battle sadistic killers as he tries to find Luke and stay alive long enough to see the birth of his child.

Available at Amazon | Indiebound | Bookshop

Perilous Gambit Book Cover

A murder will put a damper on a romantic Las Vegas Wedding.

Jackie ran off to Las Vegas to perform in a high-class drag revue. His sister, Rachel, is nervous about introducing her drag queen brother to her fiancé, NYPD homicide detective Jason Dickson while they are in Vegas to get married. When the star of the drag show is murdered, Jackie steps up to be the star – and also becomes the prime suspect. The local cops are fixated on Jackie, who turns to Jason and his partner, Mike Stoneman, for help.

When the drag queen’s murder links together with a high-profile political blackmail scheme and a Vegas organized crime boss . . . a relaxing week in Sin City is out the window.

So much for a stress-free wedding.

Available at Amazon


If you live long enough, you’ll eventually find your music included on a vinyl rarities compilation album from Portugal. That’s my takeaway this week. Here’s the whole package below with album cover, vinyl and insert.

Keeping on Top: US Power Pop Classics 1979-1983 is the title of the album. The cover art is perhaps a bit misleading as it does not include any tracks from The Ramones, The Runaways or Siouxsie and the Banshees. Bands and songs are listed on the back cover below. Number 4 on the A side is my band, The P-15s, performing our original number You’re Not That Girl.

Here’s a the original cover from the 45 single we produced in 1980.

John, Corey, Bruce, Gordon

The back cover and credits are below. Someone cleverer than me came up with the idea to label the “A” and “B” sides as Arrival and Departure.

Bruce does the heavy lifting on this one with singing, drumming and songwriting credit. I’m still rather fond of my sprightly (cheesy?) organ solo in the middle. You can listen for yourself below.

The late 1970s and early 1980s were an exciting time to be playing original music in Los Angeles. Dozens of clubs featuring original bands sprung up overnight. The Go Gos, The Knack, The Blasters, Oingo Boingo, The Motels, The Plimsouls and X were just some of the bands playing around town at the time. None of them had record deals yet.

We never had a career like the bands listed above, but it’s been interesting to find out how much of an afterlife this single has had. There were a lot of bands putting out self-produced singles at the time and with the rise of vinyl collectors the record itself has become something of a collectible. About ten years ago I got an email from a rarities collector who wanted to buy any copies I might still have. I happily sold him ten copies for $10 each, which was a pretty good return on my investment. The original list price was only $1.

I also got an email from a young woman in Japan who said this was her favorite song and wanted to buy a copy. I have no idea where she heard it originally, but I sent her one for the same price (although the shipping was significantly higher). Ah the wonders of the Internet!

When Dark Pigeons Rule

Originally published in the DASH Literary Journal

A new short story. Futuristic/Fantasy/Sci-Fi that was inspired by a scientific article I’d read about pigeons. This one was fun to write for all the language and words I needed to invent. You can download it as Kindle, EPUB or PDF format.

The Firing Range

As I started working on a new historical novel set in 1956 in La Jolla, CA, it brought up memories of hearing rifle volleys in the distance when I was a kid. The crackling volleys were a regular feature of life in La Jolla before and after WWII, and well up into the 1950s. I knew there had been some sort of military target range nearby. A bit of research revealed that it was Camp Calvin B. Matthews, which was first established in 1917. In 1964 the land was transferred to the Regents of the University of California to establish the campus of UCSD, which welcomed its first undergraduate class that year. You can still find a bit of the camp’s history preserved at the university. A marker was dedicated during the official transfer ceremony on October 6, 1964

Over a million recruits were trained at Camp Matthews over the years. During WWII, as many as 9,000 troops went through training every three weeks.

public domain NPS

You can find the marker and the small park that surrounds it by entering the UCSD campus on Gilman Drive and then going north on Myers Drive for two blocks (map).

The Matthews Quad nearby is also named in tribute to the original camp and two structures from the original buildings still stand on the UCSD campus. One is the Che Cafe, the student-run vegan food service and alternative performance space.

The other is a small guardhouse that served as the northern entrance to the facility, which now sits at the corner of a parking lot just east of the intersection of Campus Point Drive and Voigt Drive off Genessee.

Camp Matthews Sentry Box, photo by John Stanton