Deception and working truth [3] Moscow

Winter writing in Wisconsin

Hoarfrost: It remained on the trees, seemingly renewing every night, for the second week of December (2014). On other nights, the sky was clear and the full moon rendered the middle of the night like day, save as if viewed through a photographic negative.

The hoarfrost remained on the trees, seemingly renewing every night, for the whole second week of December (2014). Some nights, the sky was clear, the full moon rendering the night into day, save as if viewed through a photographic negative.  It’s my homeland.

[Gleason, Wisconsin: Early morning, December 12, 2014]  The Town of Russell school bus, a veritable light show of blinking and flashing amber and red lights, flies past (roof strobe light off, i.e., no children yet aboard) in the pre-dawn darkness. The temperature hovers either side of freezing. The forest, gray and white save where for the spruce which stand stark and black, is covered in hoarfrost, the fields in snow. I cross-country ski every day, the snow so right that it seems I fly over the fields. Deer and bobcat use my tracks to avoid deep snow (and I curse them; their hooves punch holes in the tracks and I stumble).

I am in the ‘middle morass’ of The Executioner’s Son. Alexander Soroka, the novel’s eminence grise, lectures on deception. In the auditorium, Danton Larionov, a main character, wonders if Colonel Soroka is somehow related to the young beauty he met in Suzdal in the Spring 1953, the year Stalin died, Beria was executed and Danton’s father committed suicide.

The middle morass is that miserable time when, after the sparkling first scenes and the ‘just so’ conclusion have been written, but you can’t “get there from here.”

A 1900 short story, The Beacon, by the Russian writer, Korolenko, comes to mind (Russian version here, English translation here). It is late Fall. A young man has hired a boat, which conveys him in utter darkness along a gloomy Siberian river. In the darkness, he spies a light and exclaims “Almost there!.” The boatman glances over his shoulder and returns to rowing. “Still a long way,” he says. The young man, flabbergasted, philosophizes, as Russians are wont to do.   The beacon shines deceptively, now seemingly near, now distant.

Korolenko’s short story gave hope to a generation of Russian revolutionaries. The beacon beckons––warmth, comfort and security, the worker’s paradise. The revolution we will come. Eventually. Inevitably. [Read more…]


Deception and working truth [2] (Moscow 1962)


Morning Fog and Snow, N. Wisconsin, Early December, 2014

Morning Fog and Snow, N. Wisconsin, Early December, 2014

Patrice and I are at the farm for at least the next year. Of late, the mornings have been fog-shrouded over one foot of snow. Beautiful.

I work every day on The Executioner’s Son. We are in 1960-62 post-Stalin Moscow. Lenin/Stalin’s genocide/democide and WWII is the near past.   It is known well enough that some number of Soviet citizens perished, but the fault lies neither with Communism nor the Soviet people, but elsewhere. It was Fascism or the “Cult of Personality” or even ” ‘mistakes were made.’

The main characters witnessed mass murder, though none save one has murdered. Each has borne witness, and each will admit or deny what they have seen. The novel’s action takes place against a backdrop of deception: State-to-state, person-to-person and, self-deception. [Read more…]


Deception and working truth (1)


There are so many ways to lie, so few ways to hold a working truth. Then, It takes but a moment to create another lie; it takes forever to disprove it (unknown)

Define the word

I am writing a dramatic novel with the working title,  Executioner’s Son.  

Wooden Church, Suzdal, Russia

Wooden Church, Suzdal, Russia

Deception is the backdrop against which the characters act out their roles.  The locations are three: Suzdal, Russia; Moscow, and Mariel, Cuba. It opens in Suzdal, a medieval Russian town, where those who survived the Mongol extermination of 1238 emerged from the forests and ravines to form modern Russian from under the ‘Mongol Yoke’. It is 1953. The Bolsheviks, Mongol-like, regained Russia to reimpose the “Mongol Yoke” while, Mongol-like,  exterminating millions and enslaving the survivors.  Suzdal’, once Russia’s spiritual center, has become prison in the Gulag system.   The Bolsheviks exhort with slogans.  “Building Socialism!”  “Life’s becoming better, sweeter.”  “Work makes you free.” [Read more…]


Upon a long road

Colorado landscape–one actor in the novel,  "The Wounded"

Colorado’s Mt. Wilson, an actor in the novel “The Wounded”

Dubai Fountain

Dubai Fountain. I look out on the pool and fountain.  I have yet to tire of watching it.

It has been a long road across storied lands – Croatia, Germany and the United Arab Emirates before I go to the farm. Patrice is teaching these two months in Colorado, and felt I would be underfoot, so…I’ve come to Dubai to write and visit my child.

The United Arab Emirates, financed by European and American petrodollars, is a collection of sultanates (princedoms) of which Abu Dhabi and Dubai are the wealthiest.  Thirty years ago a sand wasteland, it now advertises itself as a commercial ‘crossroads’ and so they are, insofar as gazillions of dollars and euros cn convert ‘vision’ into hotels, fountains, airports, malls and office buildings.  This is not unprecedented––sudden wealth and sudden building boom––in the history of the world.  Dresden was once a newly build city as I see growing around me here.  [Read more…]


A Simple Plan

The Wounded (To Blog)


  Two down; three to go

There is a recent novel, A Simple Plan, where two brothers and their friend stumble upon the wreckage of a plane–the pilot is dead and his duffel bag contains four million dollars in cash. In order to hide, keep, and share the fortune, these ordinary men all agree to a simple plan. The title is ironic.

I have a simple plan:  write five linked historical novels set against the backdrop of the cold war deception. Two down; three to go. [Read more…]


The Wounded, The next book…

The Wounded

the second novel in The Long War series:

  Available to pre-order now

The Wounded

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Pre-order price $2.99



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 (credit card not charged until the book is shipped on 1 October 2014)

“The Wounded” is the second book of Townsend’s The Long War Series. Ricky Belisle travels across the south and west of America, a minor league baseball player, seeking redemption before his family, his people, his Marie Jeanne. It is 1960, the nuclear age. His forebears far into the mists of time––father, grandfathers, great-grandfathers and beyond––had been warriors. The world no longer needs such men. He encounters temptation and corruption and injustice, a south of explosive rage,  injury and death lurking behind the friendly grin. Within the baseball stadium, there are rules, which are firm, just and clear.

He signs to a AAA team, on his way to the ‘big house.’ A run down between third and home, a concussion, and his quest for redemption is stopped short.  Marie Jeanne finds him on a Colorado mountain, recovering, hardened. Indifferent nature tests them, their love, their worth, yet again.


The first book in the series, Spirit Falls, is free until 30 September

Simply click on the  book cover

Free until 1 October 2014

insert the coupon code,  CM69E 

(not case-sensitive)

and download Spirit Falls in your preferred format



Long Road: Dresden to Dubai

Novelist seeking words in storied lands

Dubai Fountain

DUBAI: Michelle’s apartment looks out upon Dubai Fountain. Click here for one of many u-tube videos.

The Zwinger Palace, Dresden

DRESDEN The Zwinger Palace

 Our year abroad on a budget approaches an end. Our strategy was to live where it was inexpensive (Rovinj, Croatia) in order to afford better (Dresden, Germany), then giga-expensive (Dubai) (visiting a child). It has worked.

Patrice and I have temporarily went our separate ways, she  to Boulder, Colorado to teach and I to Dubai. We will meet in Northern Wisconsin in mid-October to spend the winter at the farm. Weather predictions suggest the coming winter will be as the last––brutally cold, overcast and heavy snow.  Note to Robert; buy firewood.

I’ve come to Dubai visit my daughter and to finish the third novel,  Executioner’s Son, in The Long War series. My child has been the personification of kindness and hospitalityThe novel is a bastard.

I know about as much as you what the finished Executioner’s Son might look like. The protagonists, Danton Larionov and Ekaterina Soroka, are Russian, the novel taking place in Soviet Russia circa 1952-1962.  They enter one another’s life in Suzdal, a once beautiful Russian medieval monastic city,  now a Gulag.  I both understand and do not understand what drives these two young people. They are of course human with human failings and yearnings, but also Soviet Russian young people coming of age in a blood-drenched era from whose capitol, Moscow, the orders emanated to murder millions.

In Dresden, in the former East Germany, Soviet occupied for forty-five years,  they glance eastwards with a quivery nervousness as Vladimir Putin, the former Dresden KGB boss, presses westward. Might he be satisfied with Ukraine? [Read more…]


Memory and memorial

Every word she writes is a lie, including ‘and’ and ‘the.’

Mary McCarthy, a  New York writer and Trotskyite, speaking of Lillian Hellman, a New York writer and Stalinist, on the Dick Cavett show (January, 1980)

Dresden, Germany

Dresden view from apartment window, June 2014

View of Dresden from apartment window, June 2014

Dresden after night of 13-14 USAAF and RAF bombing.

Dresden after night of 13-14 Feb 1945 USAAF and RAF bombing and the.

 I am in Dresden until late summer. We have rented a fourth floor apartment in Dölzschen, a village a mile SSE in the foothills with an amphitheater view of Dresden’s city center.  Often I forget how close the German city is to the German countryside. Though German towns now merge into one another like suburbia in America, this five- or six-hundred year old farm village still, if not for much longer, has a sense of the country.  The town hall (rathaus) borders the barn yard (bauerhof).  It is as if in the morning and evening cows still walk to pasture down the main street.

Our apartment has high-stadium view of the downtown where the 13-14 February 1945 Dresden firestorm gutted the city. One can almost feel, having finished the milking that evening sixty years ago, the farmer hears the horses, agitated, their heavy hooves striking the pen boards a few times, resonance to the first few bombs the pathfinders dropped to mark the target zone, then the silence, then down along the Elbe River,  the city beneath the clouds lights up in fire and explosions.  The firestorm killing twenty-five thousand. In the conflagration the innocent, half-innocent and guilty alike perished. Such was the first half of Europe’s twentieth century; 25,000 dead barely registered a blip. [Read more…]


Camouflage, Concealment and Deception

…and Catastrophic Anthropogenic Global Warming

God protect and preserve our Nature.

Atonement Cross:       God Protect and Preserve our Nature.

I have been taking long walks in the Upper Swabian countryside this spring. The Alps like the Rockies advance or retreat as is their wont and per the air’s clarity. This is a rich and well watered land, tended these last several hundred years with respect and honor.  I am a northern Wisconsin farm boy; I’ve worked long hours in the fields and in the woods.  I marvel here at how meticulously the woodsmen harvest the timber, quickly (and in straight rows) replant, then fastidiously control weeds until the young trees themselves shade the competition.  I could similarly go on for pages about the crops, and then the farm animals.  The German farmer himself may speak haltingly about his inner feelings for the land, which is perhaps why he has paid his poets and musicians, those who homage this visually and in actuality fecund land, so well.

Forest monument, A young pole executed, 1941

Memorial to  to a young Pole executed for love, 1941

…and built a lot of Feldkreuze.  This monument,  God Protect and Preserve our Nature, lies across the farm track from the memorial to the Polish student the Nazis executed for his betrothal to the local German girl. Each marker is well-tended. The locals I question (don’t for a moment think farm folks, German or American, are reluctant to tell a story), think the placement is random, but perhaps we can let it symbolize duality in the human soul, eh?  We are each capable of sublime generosity and base cruelty. My own motives have been on occasion pristine, often enough, base. [Read more…]


Germany, Great Dreams

Great Nightmares

I am a Germanophile. There is not much about this land I do not admire.

Rheinland-Pfalz family friends, I've often hoisted those boys into the air. No more.

(May 2014) Rheinland-Pfalz family friends, I’ve often hoisted those boys into the air. No more.

When I first lived in Germany (Berlin, 1970-75), I was young, inexperienced and busy; my goal was to have a good time. The second time I lived in Germany (Rheinland-Pfalz, 1978-82), married with children, my goals were to be a good father and good soldier. Those struggles no longer constrain me. I have time. My goal is to write good novels.  My novels are concerned with camouflage, concealment and deception (denial and deception); they describe a ‘smoke and mirrors’ world. Truth is conditional.  Great dreams distort, nicht wahr?  So, Fair warning.  This is a self-teaching blog.  [Read more…]