BIO

 

Hi, and thanks again for visiting my website.

Let me start by giving you some biographical information that makes me sound like an interesting character. 

MY MISSPENT YOUTH

As a bearded youth in the 1960s and 70s, I supported myself as a labor contractor, fry cook, corn detassler (a sexy job that as we removed the tassel from one variety of corn to allow pollination from a select variety to produce a high-priced hybrid), anthropological research assistant, farm hand, labor contractor, house painter, greenhouse worker, Fuller brush man, light truck driver, salad chef, wholesale flower salesman, snack-bar manager, bellhop.  The latter job was one of my first and did I ever learn a lot about human nature running the elevator--one of the old fashioned jobs that required an operator--and toting bags in a much faded (with all the threadbare trappings right out of the Roaring Twenties) but  one time grand hotel in my home town.  I could have made a small fortune (for a kid) had I indulged the baser yearnings of our guests (although I'd probably now be in jail or otherwise be pursuing an altogether different sort of career.)

                                                       

The most exotic job of my early years was as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Micronesia, where I lived on an island less than a quarter of a square mile.   This island was so close to the Philippines that we were able to receive AM radio from Davao City on the southern most Philippine isle of  Mindinao (the station played 1950s top forty hits and the announcers even made like top-forty disk jockeys, all carried on in English if I remember aright).  Due south a hundred miles or so lay New Guinea.  The islanders, to a person, had an absolute phobia about being cast away to that place.  It was an article of faith that any survivor to reach Papua, as it was called, would be eaten by their would-be rescuers.  Once an old islander gave me instructions on preparing a human body for eating.  For your information, cooking was performed by stuffing fire-heated rocks into all body cavities.  From the telling detail of his description it was apparent that a little long pig, as human flesh is known in those parts, had passed pretty close to his personal experience.  It was more than three hundred miles to the district center of Koror, Palau, the nearest island with which we were in two-way communication and which had electricity, running water and the possibility of rescue ships and equipment.  A supply boat came down every three to six months.  Less than a hundred islanders inhabited the isle, but there were thousands of coco palms, a wide sandy beach surrounded the place, and the pupils in the elementary school where I taught were bright and enthusiastic.  The sojourn was as idyllic as it sounds.  

My first year in the Peace Corps was spent on the island of Peleliu, which the Marines had stormed on September 14, 1944, twenty-two years prior to my arrival--and in many ways the Second World War hadn't ended out there even though the treaty had been signed in Tokyo Bay twenty-one years earler.  If that radio station in Davao City was trapped in the 1950s, the Trust Territory, as it was known, was a fly in the amber of the immediate post war.  Unfortunately, the only time I tried to deal with this material was in my first "learner" novel.  I suppose I should work on that place and era again.  Wow, even Somerset Maugham could hardly imagine a more forlorn and romantic time and place. 

Regarding Peleliu, if memory serves, about two thousand Marines and U.S. Army relief soldiers and about 10,000 Japanese were killed on that very small island,  in one of the toughest campaigns of the Pacific War.  The rugged hills behind the school where I taught were honeycombed with caves the Marines captured in hand-to-hand combat.  Skeletons outnumbered living souls on that island by about ten to one.  I can tell you with practical certainty that there are no such things as wraiths or ghosts because, if there were, that island would be crawling with them.  By the way, I don't want to sound in any way flippant about any of the men who died on that island, theirs or ours.  I left there with a profound respect for what our guys did during WWII--and a grudging respect for the other side too.  I spent many an idle hour trying to recreate the mindset of those who stormed the island.  We are talking about a highly fortified island defended by fanatical Japanese (who are by no means slouches in the fortitude department).  Once when I was a somewhat unkempt looking fellow (much as I look now but that look at that time was still regarded as unusual in certain quarters in the 60s during the height of the Vietnam War), I encountered Gen. Chesty Puller,  the Marine commander on Peleliu.  He was being sneaked into the student union to give a talk in the ball room.  I put out my hand and told him how much I respected the sacrifice he and his men had made on Peleliu.  Those were pretty uptight times--I'm talking the late 60s now; later that year that very building was burned down by parties who were claimed to be student radicals--and Gen. Puller and most of those in his party were a bit taken aback by my confronting him.  I'm sure they expected an altogether different message coming from me.  But I'm glad I had that opportunity to express the upshot of many hours of reading about the Pacific war and cogitation on that island.    

CAREER

For the best part of the past twenty years I have taught English and writing courses at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University in Daytona Beach.  Before that I served brief tenures at the University of Texas at Austin and the University of Miami and Miami-Dade Community College.  (See the data sheet below for the dry facts.)  I am a native Midwesterner, but early in life (during Peace Corps training in Key West, actually) I came to Florida and fell in love with the place.  This love is reflected by my interest in Florida studies, shown I believe by the books I have written and edited, for which please see the BOOKS page.

FLORIDA INTERESTS

I am a Florida outdoorsy and I am an amateur naturalist.  I tend a small grove of citrus and tropical fruit trees--perhaps I should say pick, as not much work is required once they are up and going and not much given.  During some seasons the fruit produced by these trees forms a significant part of my diet.  And since I live in Florida the fruit comes year round. In the spring the loquats or Japanese plums (they taste like a cross between a peach and a plum) bear.  After them come the white sapotes, which I think the Cubans call the white mango and that is a pretty good description of that fruit.  In the summer, the avocados start to produce as well as the guavas (common and strawberry) various tropical “cherries,” cherry of the Rio Grand, Surinam cherry, Barbados cherry (each small fruit has more vitamin C than an orange), then comes the fall and winter when things really start popping with citrus (which will stay in season for nine months or so), carambolas, papayas, persimmons, the big “Florida” avocados, and on and on.  I am astonished that so few Floridians take the opportunity to grow the wonderful fruits that will delight them with so little effort.

MISCELLANEOUS

I own a canoe, a kayak, a beat-up beach cruiser bicycle and a box of worn out jogging shoes, all of which get a great deal of use (or in the case of the shoes got).  My special love is identifying the odd species of tropical plants that grow on Florida shores.  Hardly anything is as soothing to the soul.  I’m a fancier of travel writers such as William Bartram, the great naturalist writer of Florida, and John Lloyd Stephens, perhaps the greatest American travel writer, on whom I am preparing a book. I emulate those travelers as often as I can by roaming over the country in various sorts of vehicles and throughout the hemisphere by other means.  For instance. Last summer I took my boon companion a 1986 Ford Ranger (alas now replaced by a more modern stead) to Kansas City from where I retraced the Santa Fe and Camino Real trails all the way to Chihuahua City, Mexico.  Look for photos from that trip on the site in the future.  I used to be fit and hard bellied as a washboard, running five or six miles a day.  Now I am enjoying encroaching middle age and nursing a Santa Claus-like paunch, to go with the Saint Nick beard, that all good (or even bad) mystery writers need to be allowed.  I also indulge snapping photos, being the author of the random shots seen on these pages, not counting the pix of me.  Since the organizations a man belongs to define him about as well as anything, I include a list of those I have belonged to at some point in the past few years below.  Since I have a natural disinclination to join anything, I am by no means currently enrolled in all of them.

GRAPHICS

Please feel free to download the photos on this page if you need them for a story.  Click on the photos to find a copy of the photo with a higher resolution.  If this complicated maneuver doesn’t work, contact me and I’ll send you graphics with a higher dpi.   By the way, sorry about the finger in my face in this photo.  Although a snapper myself, I rarely have a photograph of myself shot.   

                                      

                   

Work:

1984 to present

Professor of Communication and Humanities (w/tenure), Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, Daytona Beach

 

1983-84

Lecturer in English, U of Texas/Austin

 

1981-83

Lecturer in English, U of Miami (FL) and Miami-Dade Community College

 

1978-81

Graduate Assistant in English at University of Southwestern Louisiana

 

1971-78

Labor Contractor for Pioneer Corn (as well as other nefarious jobs)

 

1969

Project Themis/Micronesia (KU Researcher)

 

1966-68

Peace Corps in Micronesia

     

Education

1983

M.F.A. in Creative Writing, Vermont College

 

1981

M.A. in English, U of Southwestern LA

 

1971

1971 B. A. in Philosophy, Kansas University

     

Miscellaneous

1999-2000

Vice Chair of the Volusia County Democratic Executive Committee

 

1998

 

Edgar Allan Poe Nomination for Crime Fiction in the Sunshine State

 

1997

President, Southeast Volusia Democratic Club

 

1995-96

President, Florida Association of Departments of English

 

1994

Founding Member of Sister Cities of Volusia

 

1992

Fulbright Lecturer in American Literature and Creative Writing at the University College of Belize

 

1991

President, Florida College English Assoc.

 

1989

Founded and Edited Dialectic, the Florida AAUP Bulletin

     

Organizations

 

Nature Conservancy, American Civil Liberties Union, United Faculty of Florida, Southeast Volusia Chamber of Commerce, American Association of University Professors, Halifax Habitat for Humanity, Sierra Club, Florida Association of Departments of English, Florida College English Association, NAACP, Mystery Writers of America, Florida Trail Association, Rare Fruit Council, North American Fruit Explorers

    

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