Getting Published – Creative Nonfiction

October 4, 2009
Just before the shots - 46 yrs ago.

Just before the shots - 46 yrs ago.

Today I celebrate another milestone in my writing career. I got published again. This time in an e-zine called Reflective Dog. A creative nonficton piece called, The Motorcade.

It’s about an historical event from the eyes of a fictional bystander. It tries to capture the excitement, emotion and shock of the event.

Check it out at this site,


“Oswald’s Ghost” – November 22, 1963

November 24, 2008


I watched a fantastic and haunting documentary on the Discovery Channel on the day of the assassination’s 45th anniversary. It’s titled “Oswald’s Ghost”. It was not just about the crime, but the effect it had on everyone. It wasn’t pro-conspiracy or lone gunman. Rather it reviewed the events and the unanswered questions. This DVD was not in any way sensationalized, rather a sobering look at that fateful day.

After watching I ordered it for my history library. It evoked many memories and haunts the viewer with many what-ifs.

The final solution in my opinion lies in Oswald’s grave. Only God and Lee Harvey Oswald know what truly happened that day.

RFK: Death of a Dream June 6, 1968

June 5, 2008

The year was 1968. It was a contentious presidential election year. The incumbant president Democrat Lyndon Baines Johnson had bowed out of the election with a shocking announcement in March. The Vietnam War was tearing Americans apart. Johnson’s popularity was at an all-time low. The Republican frontrunner for the nomination was former Vice President Richard M. Nixon who promised peace with honor in Vietnam if he was elected. (Above: Photo taken from RFK funeral train. Paul Fusco photo.)

On the Democratic side President Johnson had lost the New Hampshire primary to little-known Senator Eugene McCarthy of Minnesota who promised unconditional withdrawal from the war. After this primary loss President Johnson suddenly announced that he would not stand for re-election. The sudden withdrawal of Johnson opened the field. Vice President Hubert Humphrey entered the race late, after the primaries (only thirteen states had primaries at this time), and promised to continue Johnson’s policies. He proposed to negotiage a peace, but not at any cost.

Senator McCarthy was winning primaries and support as the anti-war candidate. Sitting on the sidelines was Senator Robert F. Kennedy of New York. At the urging of supporters he entered the race and he too began winning primaries and support as an anti-war candidate. He brought the Kennedy name and support to the race. McCarthy did not have a national base and began losing ground to Kennedy. Humphrey was the party favorite, except he didn’t enter any primaries and Kennedy began gaining in delegate support and in public support. Kennedy hoped to force McCarthy out of the race by winning the delegate-rich California primary, then it would be just Kennedy and Humphrey at the convention. By the time the California primary came on June 4th, it was obvious the nomination would have to be decided at the convention in Chicago in August.

The California primary was the biggest and most delegate-rich for any candidate. Senator Kennedy won it overwhelming. It was also the last primary. The next event to determine the Democratic nominee was the Democratic National Convention in Chicago.

In the early hours of June 5th, after his primary victory, Senator Robert F. Kennedy went to the Ambassador Hotel ballroom in Los Angeles and gave a victory speech to his supporters. Shortly after midnight, he concluded his speech with the words of encouragement to them, “Now on to Chicago and let’s win there.”

He planned to go into the crowd and shake hands, but his friends directed him to leave backstage through the kitchen area to avoid the crowds. Kennedy was shaking hands with kitchen staff on his way out, when a Palestinian immigrant Sirhan B. Sirhan stepped forward and at point blank range emptied his eight-shot Ivor Johnson revolver at the senator. Kennedy slumped to the concrete floor of the kitchen and lay on his back bleeding profusely from his head. One of the kitchen staff cradled his head as friends and supporters wrestled with Sirhan and finally subdued him. Several others were wounded.

Senator Kennedy was rushed to the hospital where doctors performed surgery, but in the early morning hours of June 6, 1968 Robert Francis Kennedy died of his gunshot wounds. The hopes and dreams for real change died with him.

Hubert Humphrey became the Democratic nominee without virtually any opposition, and Richard Nixon was the Republican nominee. Nixon was elected in a landslide in November 1968. A peace was negotiated in Vietnam after several more years of fighting. Nixon and Spiro Agnew, his Vice President, were re-elected in 1972, and both subsequently resigned in disgrace.

I still remember Bobby’s inspiring words,

“There are those who look at things the way they are, and ask why… I dream of things that never were and ask why not.”

U.S. postage stamp issued in 1978 to honor Robert Kennedy.

1968: It Was the Worst of Times, It Was the Best of Times

April 1, 2008

April 4, 2008 is the 40th anniversary of the assassination of civil rights leader Martin Luther King, Jr. He was shot at the Lorraine Motel in Memphis, Tennessee. As this sad commemoration approaches I was thinking back on how in retrospect I now viewed this pivotal year.

Here are some of the key events that depressed me,
– The Vietnam War intensified, both the war and the protests
– Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated
– Robert F. Kennedy was assassinated
– Hubert Humphry got the Democratic presidential nomination without even entering a primary
– Richard Nixon got the Republican presidential nomination
– Richard Nixon won the presidential election
– Pierre Elliot Trudeau became prime minister of Canada

Ironically in the mountain town of Golden, British Columbia on a November day, the future love-of-my life arrived to brighten up the world. Fate or luck brought her to me in the future, so the year in fact turned out to be the best for me. It eclipses all other events for me. Life is so strange sometimes.

Book Review – Brothers: The Hidden History of the Kennedy Years

March 31, 2008

brothersbookcvr.jpgBrothers: The Hidden History of the Kennedy Years

by David Talbot, Free Press a Division of Simon & Schuster, Inc., New York, NY, 2007

This is a riveting expose of the Kennedy era through the eyes of John Kennedy’s most trusted adviser and confidant, his brother Robert Kennedy and other close friends from that era. It begins with John F. Kennedy’s presidency in January 1961 and continues through his brother, Robert Kennedy’s assassination, on June 6, 1968.

Using startling new evidence and interviews, the author reveals for the first time that Robert Kennedy did not believe the Warren Commission’s lone gunman theory and was convinced his brother was the victim of a conspiracy. When he became president he intended to re-open the Warren Commission Investigation into his brother’s assassination.


Previously unknown and chilling facts about the era are uncovered. The historical characters come to life in the pages of this book. The reader will be pulled into the events as if they were there. For example, the Joint Chiefs-of-Staff of the American military planned to carry out a surprise nuclear attack on the Soviet Union in the early 1960s to remove the communist threat. President Kennedy asked them what American losses would result. The reply was, “only 20 or 30 million deaths, and a few major cities would be obliterated.” It was inconceivable to him they would seriously consider such a thing. During his entire administration the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) and the military were conducting operations that he would not sanction, yet they went ahead regardless.

Some key points made by the author put this era in context,

          This was the height of the Cold War and the communist threat was the dominating fear of the CIA, FBI, and the military.

          The use of nuclear weapons and nuclear war were not unthinkable concepts to the military.

          The CIA was fixated on Fidel Castro’s Cuba and overthrowing its socialist government.

          The assassination of Castro was actively pursued with the help of the Mafia and without Kennedy’s approval or knowledge.

Any and all attempts by Kennedy to ease tensions with the Soviet Union were strongly opposed by the military and others who said he was “soft” on communism and believed as a result he was endangering the security of the United States.

He was opposed in his attempt to assist Martin Luther King, Jr. and his drive for civil rights for black Americans. The resulting split in the Democratic Party seriously endangered the re-election of Kennedy in 1964. If he did not win the state of Texas in the election of 1964, he would not be re-elected, hence the urgency of his trip to Texas in 1963. He needed to attack extremism in America and promote his view of world peace that relied on peaceful co-existence, not nuclear confrontation.

Reading this book made me believe in conspiracy simply because he had so many powerful enemies who had the motive, means and opportunity to murder the president. The author answers another statement made by those who don’t believe in conspiracy – “someone would have talked”. Talbot documents the fact that many reliable witnesses have talked over the years. They have not been taken seriously, eliminated, or their testimony buried. Although the story is woven into the assassinations of both John and Robert, it is not a true assassination book. It doesn’t advance a specific conspiracy scenario, rather it summarizes the most significant theories on the subject. What he does do most effectively is lift the veil on the many enemies of the Kennedy presidency. Bottom line thesis the book seems to advance is that Kennedy’s approach to the Cold War was so revolutionary, sinister forces fought to end it.

To anyone interested in the history of this era, this book will be a page-turner. I read it in a couple of days and couldn’t leave it alone. Talbot has so well-researched and documented his story the reader will be thinking about it for a very long time. It reads like a thriller. He accomplished the goal of examining the Kennedy Era through the eyes of those who lived it. After reading this book I am amazed that nuclear war did not occur.

Previously unpublished interviews with Jackie Kennedy and Robert Kennedy concerning the events of November 22, 1963 and their aftermath are a highlight of the book. Jackie’s descriptions of the bloodbath inside the presidential Lincoln are especially gut-wrenching. These descriptions serve to force the reader to look beyond the Zapruder film and realize the human carnage that was taking place.

The final question posed by the author is, “Why should we care after all these years?”  His book argues that democracy is threatened by lies and untruths perpetuated by governments. For this reader, a child of the sixties, the Kennedy assassinations were the beginning of my cynicism of governments. This book reconfirms my beliefs.

The author, David Talbot is the founder and former editor-in-chief of Salon, one of the most respected on-line magazines. He has written for The New Yorker, Rolling Stone, and other publications. When Robert Kennedy was assassinated, Talbot was a sixteen-year old worker in Kennedy’s campaign for the presidency.

This was the most thought-provoking book I have read for a long time. I highly recommend it.



March 13, 2008

Several bloggers have done this lately. I thought it would be an interesting way to look back in time, so here is my version.

1. Who was your first date?
A girl name Terry who was in my class. I remember it took me forever to work up the nerve to ask her to a dance. I think I was around 15 at the time.

2. Do you still talk to your first love?
No. My first puppy love was at age 14 and her name was Crystal. We met while vacationing at a resort. Apparently she married and had several children. I never saw her again after that summer, except we did write letters back and forth for a while.

3. What was your first alcoholic drink?
Vodka and orange juice. A couple of my buddies and I tied one on when we were about 16. Certainly something I am not proud of, but I was so sick that it’s something I haven’t forgotten.

4. What was your first job?
My first part-time job was working at the local IGA grocery store. I worked there through all of high school. Started when I was 15. The first full-time job was in June 1969. My employer was Babcock & Wilcock. I was a timekeeper/first aid man on various construction sites. There was lots of shift work. I remember the starting wage was $3.00/hr and after three years I got up to $5.00/hr.

5. What was your first car?
First car I owned was a 1969 MGB sportscar. It was a snazy convertible. I had lots of fun for a couple of years, until I had an accident and couldn’t afford the insurance, so I traded to a Toyota Corolla. Before cars I did have a couple of motorcycles, a Yamaha 100cc Twin and a Yamaha 350. Got my first one when I turned 16 and got my licence.

6. Who is the first person you thought of this morning?
My beautiful wife Cindy. I get up early, around quarter to five, and it is very difficult to leave the warmth of the bed.

7. Who was the first teacher who influenced you?
I don’t remember at all. The one teacher that really sticks in my mind is Gerald Kelsey who was my grade 8 teacher and also principle of the elementary school. I was severely challenged by math. He took the time to work with me after school several times a week. If it weren’t for his patience and perseverance I would likely still be in that grade.

8. Where did you go on your first ride on an airplane?
In 1957 I went for a helicopter ride in the small town I lived in at the time, Iroquois, Ontario. It was part of their Christmas celebrations. Santa had arrived via the chopper and Dad arranged for us to have a ride.

9. Who was your first best friend, and are you still friends with him/her? When, high school? Elementary school?
I had two very best male friends all the way through high school. Unfortunately I lost touch with them over the years. Recently I found out one is a drunk and the other has passed on. Very sad all in all.

10. What was your first sport played?
I played little league baseball when I was around 10 or 11. I was a pitcher.

11. What was the first movie you saw?
Bambi when it first came to the screen. My folks took us to see it in Ottawa. It would have been in the 1950s, but I’m not sure of the year. 

12. What was the first concert you ever went to?
The Rolling Stones in 1964 in London, Ontario. They had just released “Satisfaction”. I remember how conservative they were at the time dressed in suits and not dancing around the stage like they do now. I also remember girls fainting and pulling off their clothes in a frenzy.

13. What was the first foreign country you went to?
The United States because I lived across the St. Lawrence River from it.

14. What was your first run-in with the law?
The police rousted a bunch of us who were at a bush party. Nothing serious though, they just told us all to go home.

15. When was your first detention?
It is hard to remember since I got so many in high school, but I was likely about 14.

16. What was the first state/province you lived in?
New Brunswick because I was born there. We left in 1955, when I was six, to live in Ontario. I left in 1977 to move to Alberta where I still reside.

17. Who was the first person to break your heart?
A girlfriend I had in high school. She was a minister’s daughter, but you would never have known it. She was a wild one let me tell you. She ended up marrying one of my best friends.

18. What was the first world event that influenced you or that you remember the most?
The Kennedy Assassination – the killing of President John F. Kennedy in Dallas on November 22, 1963 still fascinates me. I was only 14 years old at the time, but from that point forward my interest in world events and history knew no bounds. For me it was a life changing event.

If you enjoyed this why not try this exercise yourself. I know I had a few chuckles jotting these memories down.

Canadian Political Assassination: Thomas D’Arcy McGee, 1868

February 4, 2008

thomasdarcymcgee_pubdomain.jpgThomas D’Arcy McGee, Member of the Canadian Parliament, was attending a late night session of the House of Commons on April 7, 1868. D’Arcy, as he was more commonly known, had just finished delivering a passionate speech to the House on national unity.

McGee was walking home to his rooming house on Sparks Street in the capital, Ottawa, after his speech. His thoughts were on leaving politics and returning to public life. He had told his friends of his plans. Tired, McGee was looking forward to turning in for the night. It had been a long day. (Above: Thomas D’Arcy McGee)

mcgee_assasin_gun.jpgHe put his hand on the doorknob and was just entering his refuge, when someone shot him point-blank from behind. Thomas D’Arcy McGee, Canadian patriot, died instantly. He became the victim of the first Canadian political assassination.

(Above, right: The murder weapon)

Thomas was born April 13, 1825 in Carlingford, Ireland. In 1842 the family left Ireland and arrived in Boston where he joined the staff of the Boston Pilot. Within two years he was the editor and began supporting Irish independence from Britain. He worked to protect the rights of Irish immigrants to America., and also supported American annexation of the British Colony of Canada.

After a stint back in Ireland, he moved to Montreal, Canada in 1857 at the request of the large Irish community in that city. There he became the editor of the New Era which promoted independence for Canada from Britain. He no longer supported American annexation of Canada.

He became one of the father’s of Canada’s Conferation and a hated enemy of the Fenian’s. This was a group of radical Irish republicans who were against an independent Canada. With his strong support of Canadian nationalism he alienated large sections of the Irish community in Canada and elsewhere.

patrickwhelan_assassin_pubdomain.jpgPatrick James Whelan was arrested for McGee’s murder and it was widely believed that McGee was killed as part of a Fenian plot. Whelan was convicted and hanged for McGee’s assassination. However, during the trial the prosecution never accused Whelan of being a Fenian, nor did Whelan acknowledge being connected to the group. (Right: The accused assassin Whelan)

Today many historians believe Whelan was wrongfully convicted. The government needed a scapegoat and Whelan fit the bill. The evidence against him was sketchy and he denied his guilt all the way to the gallows.

Further Reading:
“The Trial of Patrick J. Whelan for the Murder of Thomas McGee.” reported by George Spaight for the Ottawa Times, 1868.

“The Honorable Thos. D’Arcy McGee: a sketch of his life and death.” by Fennings Taylor, Montreal, John Lovell, 1868

Biography at the Dictionary of Canadian Biography Online (

A History of the Irish Settlers in North American from the Earliest Period to the Census of 1850 (

%d bloggers like this: