So, I had this marvelous inspiration for an epic miniseries last night, which I am sure has probably occurred to other people – would that at least one of them might be in a position to act on this inspiration. We were watching Father Ted, and on the way to watching it, skimmed through some of the other offerings available through Amazon, Netflix, and Acorn … and I was thinking, since there are so many period series available, which offer all sorts of alternate or even just slightly-skewed versions of history, especially the versions which offer the actors the opportunity to get all vamped up in corsets and  coats trimmed up in gold braid and whatever … what would be a good and popular historical novel series to make a TV miniseries out of … something with a swaggering, handsome and sexually-adventurous-hero, who romped all through the known world of the 19th century, brushing elbows with all kinds of interesting men of note and bedding women likewise, hip-deep in scandals, scoundrels and skullduggery, oh my.

Can you picture for a shining moment – what a thumping good miniseries the Flashman books would make? Yes, George McDonald Fraser’s Flashman series of books, wherein the dashing rakehell of the outwardly heroic, inwardly lily-livered Harry Flashman goes from the First Afghan War, scampering down the corridors of power all over the globe, looking over his shoulder and putting on a desperate burst of speed. Think of all the famous historical personages portrayed over five or six episodes by well-known actors doing a guest turn, consider all the supporting and reoccurring characters, whose listing on imdb would feature this role at the top of their CV. Consider all the exotic, exciting locations for Harry Flashman’s adventures … well, OK, likely Afghanistan is off the list as a real-life shooting location since history is still repeating itself there: You got England and Scotland, Germany, the Crimea, Russia, India, China, Southeast Asia, Africa, Mexico, all through the US and better than half a century of significant events, wars, campaigns and punitive expeditions across four continents. You got Abraham Lincoln, the Charge of the Light Brigade, the Empress of China, pirates in the South China Sea, mutineers in India, and Apache on the warpath.

It would be splendid. And with even more book materiel than George R. R. Martin, too. Enough to do at least ten seasons if they did all twelve books, although likely to fill in the American Civil War segment, they might have to figure out exactly how Harry Flashman managed to fight for both the Union and the Confederacy. GMF never wanted to do it up in a book; Flashman being an Englishman, the American Civil War was just one of those minor foreign scuffles to him.

And the best part – would be that nervous-nelly, eternally politically correct social justice warriors would absolutely melt down into puddles of anguished tears at it all.

Behold – the Ukulele Orchestra of Great Britain in Concert!

Well, hallelujah and hurrah, I finally finished out the final draft of The Golden Road which was conceptualized something like five years ago when I mentally mapped out another trilogy-companion set to the Adelsverein Trilogy. Yes, there would be a book about Margaret Becker Vining Williamson, which would slot into the sequence as a prelude to the trilogy – and that took two books to bring to completion. (She was a fascinating character, who saw a lot of Texas history either happen right before her eyes, or just around the corner and out of sight.) There would be a book following on to the Trilogy – the Quivera Trail, which would pick up with Dolph Becker’s English wife and her travails in a new and alien country. And – in between the first and second Adelsverein volumes, there would be the Gold Rush adventures of Magda Vogel Becker’s young step-brother, Fredi Steinmetz. Fredi appeared as a minor character with some brief dramatic turns in the plot. He had gone to California following the rush for gold … but was never forthcoming about what he had done and seen there, between the settling of Gillespie County and the start of the Civil War. I always wanted to write a Gold Rush adventure somewhat like The Travels of Jaimie McPheeters, or so I told myself … but it kept being put on the back burner, metaphorically-speaking. I bashed out the two books about Margaret, and then Quivera Trail … for a good bit, I was actually writing them simultaneously. When I got bored or stuck, I’d work on the other. Which is a good method, as long as one is equally motivated. And then I wandered off-track.

First it was Lone Star Sons, then I got taken up with Sunset and Steel Rails – in which Fredi appeared as an older man, a hard-bitten, yet courtly romantic interest for a heroine who chose (through a series of dramatic circumstances) to be a Harvey Girl – and then by the ongoing Luna City Chronicles. Really, I wonder just how much I did want to write a Gold Rush adventure after all, since it kept getting back-burnered so frequently. I posted the first chapter in January, 2014 – but two years in the writing is about par for me, in a historical. So – actually not all that bad in the actual writing and research. So – finally roughed out, start to finish, send to the beta readers, and now to buckle down again with the various contemporary accounts collected. Lot of blanks to fill in – where, for example, was Mary Ellen Pleasant’s boarding house/restaurant in 1856-57? What were the names of express companies in operation in the northern diggings in that same year? How far degraded had the riverbank of the middle fork of the Yuba River become by that same period? Had that vicinity pretty well been overtaken by hydraulic mining – in which whole hillsides were washed away by huge gets of water. And how – exactly were daily newspapers distributed in San Francisco. I am certain that subscribers must have had theirs delivered, and equally certain that they were also sold on the streets … anyway, back to work.

The fall book event schedule carries on this Saturday with the Boerne Book Festival in Boerne, at the Patrick Heath Library, a little off Main Street at Johns Road, just past Main Plaza Park. I’ll be set up in the park and amphitheater by the side of the library – hope to see you there! When the market schedule lets up, after Christmas, I will turn to working on two more book projects – another Lone Star Sons adventure, and the 4th Luna City Chronicle for release in late 2017.

So – we spent all yesterday in the lovely little town of San Marcos, Texas – a day for us that went, as the saying used to be, “from can’t see to can’t see.” This means that it was dark before dawn when we left home and dark after sunset when we got home. The event was the Mermaid Festival – a celebration of all things mermaid, water-based and local. There is a particularly lovely stretch of spring-fed river which threads through San Marcos, and in times of yore, when Acquarena Springs was a local draw there were girls dressed as mermaids who showed off their abilities to swim and stunt in the clear water while wearing mermaid tails, and all kinds of appropriate accessories. So the last couple of weeks have been a charming and locally-based community celebration, which somehow got my daughter involved because of her Tiny Craft Bidness, making origami paper earrings. They were recruiting crafters for the event last week, and making it absolutely clear that they wanted only crafters who made the stuff they were selling, and yes, they wanted to take a look at pictures of it all – none of this re-selling imported junk from wherever. So, the Daughter Unit was pretty chuffed at being selected – and last week we hauled the pink pavilion to the courthouse square in San Marcos for about six hours – but yesterday, we were supposed to start setting up at 8 AM, and keep going until 8 PM.

As it turned out, we were there early enough to avoid any crowds and to snag a relatively good place – back against a row of trees and strip of lawn – but there weren’t any customers until the parade ended … and oh, my lord – the rush started then, and didn’t let up until nearly 7. The Daughter Unit sold her earrings hand over fist. Many customers bought several pairs, as they couldn’t make up their minds over which pair they liked best – and she had priced them sensibly, so that this was not a painful process. We were very, very pleased and gratified with this market. The vendor next to us was a couple about my own age, originally from Austin – and the wife remarked that San Marcos was how she remembered Austin, back when. Eccentric, smallish-town but with a university, and community-oriented. There were heaps of people of all ages, dressed in mermaid and mermen outfits, even a couple of Poseidons with tridents. The live music acts performed through the day, there was a nice selection of local artists and venders, a heaping helping of support from local businesses – including a catering concern who provided boxed dinners and cold drinks for the artists.

I walked down to the river before it all began, and through the relatively deserted park taking pictures. A couple of them – like the old Fisheries Office will be transformed into the next Luna City book.
And speaking of Luna City – Book 3, or Luna City 3.1 is available this very moment for Kindle on Amazon, and through D2D for Nook and for other formats. The print version will be available in a couple of weeks – I may have a stock in time for the Boerne Library Festival on October 1st, and definitely in time for the various other holiday markets later in October, November and December. (And the Golden Road, as well … still a little bit of wrapping up to do on that,)


Cover for Luna City 3.1

We had a lovely time last weekend in Giddings, for the 11th Annual Word Wrangler event, although we skipped getting BBQ from the City Meat Market this time, in favor of taking some pictures of the Giddings Volunteer Fire Department vehicles. This will be for the next Luna City book, wherein Richard, the former celebrity chef, in trying to become a better person and responsible member of the eccentric little community of Luna City, decides to be a volunteer fire fighter … but all that will come next year. For now, we are finishing up the third Luna City book, Luna City 3.1, which should be available very, very soon. This is the volume which will reveal the location of the Mills Treasure, involve Richard in a local drama society presentation, a possible romantic involvement, the resolution of his entanglement with Susannah the Bunny Boiler … and developing a closer friendship with some of the other Lunaites, such as Chris Mayall, Joe Vaughn, and the Walcott family. Oh, and see the eccentric treasure hunter Xavier Gunnison Penn bitten on the rump by an enraged llama … but I don’t want to give away simply everything. The cover was completed this week; the ebook should be ready in the next few days, and the print version available by the end of this month. The writing on the Luna City books goes quite swiftly, in comparison to the historicals, mostly because of the research. Although there is some research necessary for Luna City, the necessary elements are much easier to find, being mostly of a contemporary nature.
Following on the Word Wrangler, my daughter had an art event in San Marcos – with another event this Saturday. This involves her original origami crane earrings. Last weekends’ event went very well; although there were many other artists set up on the courthouse lawn in San Marcos, she had about the most affordable items there. We rather liked the set-up, as the various artists participating had to submit pictures of their art/products, by way of proving that they just weren’t re-selling cheap junk from China but things they had made by hand, themselves. Like many another shopper going to these local craft fairs and markets – it’s kind of disappointing to go and see the same-old, same-old items in booth after booth.
We are working up our schedule of events for this last quarter of the year; between my books, and her paper jewelry, we might very well be doing something every weekend from the end of this month to the week before Christmas: craft fairs and markets in Bastrop, Giddings, Bulverde, Boerne, New Braunfels, Blanco, Johnson City and Goliad are all in the mix – it depends on our own stamina, sales, and the table fees. And that was my week – yours?

Here it comes, rolling around again – this season salted with the bitter seasonings of a particularly contentious electoral season and all that this year has brought to us. Seriously, at this moment, I would rather not think about that campaign, and the international situation. I’d rather just put my head down and power through the book and craft events that come our way, and provide us a certain visibility in the local book and origami jewelry direct market in the lead-up to Christmas. And even some sales and visibility, for there is always a follow-on effect.

Because the last quarter of the year is traditionally the best for retail sales; when the Daughter Unit and I go all-out. Towards the end of it, we have an event every Saturday, or every Saturday-Sunday. The most brutally taxing are the ones where we haul out the pavilion, the folding tables and all the racks, chairs, and all the display stuff. This fills up the backs of the Daughter Unit’s Montero and takes both of us to set up and arrange. The least demanding events involve just the merchandise and maybe both tables. Still, it means that both of us will be tied to the venue of the day for at least six hours, which is exhausting in it’s own way – especially if a long drive is also involved.

So – what is coming up this holiday season? I will have two books to launch; the third Luna City Chronicle, of course – and the long-awaited picaresque Gold Rush adventure, The Golden Road, which I have had on my to-do writing list for … umm, the last three years? I just kept getting sidelined … read – distracted with bright shiny stuff, and completion of that book just kept getting rolled back. Lone Star Sons, the two previous Luna City books, Sunset and Steel Rails. This is the adventures of Fredi Steinmetz in California, which were referred to in the Trilogy – and in more depth in Sunset and Steel Rails, where he is an older man who has knocked around the old West for quite a bit. The Golden Road is … well, it’s about his time and adventures in California during the late 1850s, which never came up much because in the Trilogy he was a minor character, and in Sunset, he was decades beyond the impulsive, adventurous teenager he is in The Golden Road.

We’re loading on a full schedule, beginning with the Giddings Word Wrangler event this week. This was not such a big-selling event for us last year, but it was a blast to participate in because it was so strongly backed by the community. There was a banquet on Thursday evening with all the local important people there, as well as other authors, then an all-day event at the Library-Community Center on Friday, where the kids from local schools were bussed in to do the rounds of the author tables, a luncheon sponsored by city employees at mid-day … and it was all the most splendid fun. Yes, it does mean an overnight stay, with a two-hour drive on either end of it, but honestly, for Texas, a two-hour drive is reasonably close – and no, this will not include a large part of it being stuck in traffic.

Right after Giddings, we have to turn around and head up to San Marcos for a day – this is not for books, but for my daughter’s origami jewelry and beadwork. Art Squared is having a special art market to kick off Mermaid Week – on Courthouse Square in San Marcos.

And that’s just the start of our confirmed fall events, for both my books and her stuff. I’ll have a place at the Boerne Book Fair, on the grounds of the spanking brand-new Patrick Heath Library in Boerne on October 1st, and we’ll share a place at the Bulverde-Spring Branch Fall Craft Fair, which is in the Senior Activity Center on Cougar Bend Road, on November 12. Other events and markets will be filled in as they begin taking applications.

(The doings of the local volunteer fire department will figure in the next volume – The Chronicles of Luna City 3.1. which will be available very soon – like before the end of this month – so herewith, a little background and history.)

The Luna City Volunteer Fire Department is Luna City’s oldest and most venerable civic establishment, established in 1878, beating out the Masonic Lodge by a matter of eight months, and the Catholic parish of Saints Margaret and Anthony by a full year. Arthur Wells McAllister designed a building intended to serve as a fire house at the south-east corner of Town Square. The building, now a retail space for several antique and crafters, was the firehouse for thirty years. The distinctive twin double-door entrances meant to facilitate a pair of horse-drawn hose and pumper wagons are still evident in the façade.

Arthur Wells McAllister, being a forward-thinking city planner, naturally made accommodation for every civic service and improvement required by the last quarter of the 19th century. In the days when cooking, heating, and lighting a home depended on wood or coal fires, oil lamps or candles, domestic fires were an all-too-frequent occurrence, and an organized fire-fighting company of some kind was a civic necessity secondary only to a law-enforcement function. A busy man himself, Arthur Wells McAllister presented the task of organizing a fire company to another founding member of Luna City, Madison R. Bodie. Bodie, who had originally been a ranch foreman at Captain Herbert Kling Wyler’s Lazy W, had saved his wages and investment share into a business providing patent cattle feed, grain and hay to his former employer and other local ranchers. A native of San Antonio, Madison Bodie had been an active member of Milam Steam Fire Company #1, and thus had the ideal experience to take on organizing a new civic volunteer firefighting company.

Madison Bodie soon had recruited thirty fit and enthusiastic male volunteers, and attracted the generous support of town merchants. A pair of horse-drawn steam-powered pumps was purchased from the Waterous Engine Works Company, of St. Paul, Minnesota. For many years, community celebrations featured a race between Engine #1 and Engine #2 around the perimeter of Town Square. The two engines faced their first serious fire-fighting challenge in extinguishing a fire at the mansion of Morgan Sheffield – like Arthur McAllister and Madison Bodie, a man who had expected more of Luna City’s prospects than were eventually delivered. Morgan Sheffield, who settled on a small tract of land along the river, slightly to the south of Luna City, had found a natural sulphur hot-spring in the course of building his home. He had entertained hopes of a hotel and curative spa on the site. Work had just barely begun on a bathhouse and hotel, when a lightning strike on the roof of his house during a summer thunderstorm set fire to the roof.

The volunteers, alerted by one of the workmen, raced to the scene, and were successful in extinguishing the fire. In gratitude and as a token of his esteem, Morgan Sheffield had a silver speaking trumpet engraved with the date, the emblem of the company, and presented to Fire Company Chief Bodie. The silver engraved speaking trumpet was a prized symbol of authority, and after it ceased to be a practical tool for directing firefighters, it was displayed in a special glass case in the firehouse.

Eventually, the original firehouse building proved too small and ill-placed to accommodate Luna City’s first fully-motorized ladder and pumper fire trucks, which were purchased in 1920 and 1922. The fire department moved to its present location on West Elm Street, although the present-day fire house is the third building on that site. The first building on the site had to be extensively expanded with the acquisition of larger vehicles in subsequent decades. Embarrassingly, the second firehouse burned to the ground on the 4th of July, 1939, while all vehicles and volunteers were attending to a massive fire in a hay-barn on the Wyler Ranch. Many relics dating from the early years of the LCVFD were lost in that fire, including the silver speaking trumpet, and other artifacts and memorabilia.

The present Luna City VFD building accommodates a multi-purpose fire engine, a tender and a ladder truck, a brush truck for fighting grass and brushfires, a command truck and the ambulance, living quarters for full-time fire fighters, medics. and volunteers on regular shift, a classroom, storage area and wash-rack. There are six full-time paid professional firefighters; the remainder of the eighty-strong force are volunteers; either reserve, in training status or junior members. Junior members must be of high school age, and participate in regular training sessions. They assist with fundraising and educational outreach to the local community, and are considered full-fledged members of the LCVFD after their 18th birthday. Training sessions are held weekly; Wednesday evenings from 6-9 PM.

28. August 2016 · Comments Off · Categories: Luna City

The Courthouse for Luna City, as originally envisioned by Arthur Wells McAllister

The Courthouse for Luna City, as originally envisioned by Arthur Wells McAllister

27. August 2016 · Comments Off · Categories: Uncategorized

I visited Pompeii in 1970, and then again in 1985 with my daughter. It is a fascinating place, a ghost town, and once away from the main gates, quite empty; winding little streets between walls that stand higher than a single story. It’s easy to close your eyes and picture it as it might have been …

22. August 2016 · Comments Off · Categories: Chapters From the Latest Book

From the next Luna City book – due out in October, 2016 -


Road Trip!

Big Sky Country - By The Side of the Road“I have absolutely got to get away from the madness,” Richard confessed morosely, to Araceli, Patrick and Chris, on a Sunday afternoon at the Gonzales’ residence – which had become almost as comfortably familiar to him as the Age of Aquarius. “Even if just for a couple of days. It’s becoming unbearable. That wretched Gunn person is glaring at me around every corner, as if it were all my fault.”

“He must have heard that Collin Wyler is coming to spend Christmas at the ranch this year,” Araceli nodded in sage agreement. “Patricia says that’s because he’s between wives again … I suppose Gunnison Penn must think the hunt for the Mills Treasure is on again, in a big way.”

“He was on Coast to Coast a couple nights ago,” Patrick agreed. “And that’s what he was all about … the treasure, and how the Wylers and VPI and whoever are all about deliberately sabotaging his search.”

It was the second weekend after the Luna City Players’ benefit performance, the second weekend after the sighting of what had become known across the pseudo-scientific tabloids as “The Mysterious Luna City Lights”. The Age of Aquarius – once a quiet, semi-deserted backwater save for a few days around the yearly solstices and equinoxes – was now a lively and exciting place, filled almost to overflowing with treasure hunters, detectorists, and UFO hunters. The Grants, of course, were mostly pleased. Even for what they charged for a day or a week – which was more of a token gesture for parking or camping there than a serious fee – their business accounts were profitably fattened to the point where Sefton was considering renovating the old conblock latrine and bathhouse, served by the hot spring which had given the impetus to the original owner of the property to think of setting up as a destination spa and resort. Sefton also grumbled about the constant racket upsetting the chickens and goats, but Judy was pleased beyond words, at having another outlet and audience for her Tarot cards, her organic simples and natterings about old-world “magick.”

“I liked it out there because it was quiet,” Richard continued, still simmering over how his own refuge had been sabotaged by the constant influx of strangers over the summer. “After days in the Café, and people coming and going, it’s restful to go out … well, it used to be restful to go out to the trailer and unwind. Watch the goats, listen to the chickens, the wind stirring the leaves. It was positively blissful. Now … it’s full of people, pottering around with their metal detectors … waving around their sensor wands and standing up in front of each other’s video cameras as if they were on the B-Bloody-BC yammering on about their search for whatever … it doesn’t even let up after dark, either … because a good third of them are hunting for ghosts, and they sit up in the bushes, whispering to each other. I swear, if anyone shows up looking for something like the Loch Ness monster living in the river, I’ll give it up and sleep nights in the Café Ladies. And those bloody cameras give me the pip.”

“That bad, uh?” Chris replied, with sympathy. “Look, if you really feel like that – you can crash at my place until it quiets down, some. All I hear is traffic on the road, and sometimes the crunch of someone hitting the bridge abutment… don’t mind that at all, reminds me of home. I’m going up to Marble Falls for a marathon, the weekend after Thanksgiving – you’d have the place to yourself, then.”

“I might have to take you up on it,” Richard said, although he was not entirely in earnest – still, it was his chance to vent to a sympathetic audience. This was over a meal of hamburgers, skewers of barbequed chicken, fire-roasted whole ears of corn, and a number of hearty salads. Araceli and Patrick, with their circle of friends had long ago fallen into the habit of those Sunday afternoon cookouts. By degrees, Richard had fallen into the habit of joining them; on this particular Sunday, the other participants included Chris, Sylvester, Kate Heisel, Jess Abernathy and Joe Vaughn.

(“Do you good to have a social life, Chef,” Araceli had urged him some months ago, fixing him with that severely analytical eye. “You need to get out more – hang out with real people.”

“Likely I do need to hang out with people,” Richard replied in a waspish mood. “That is – with people who don’t tell me I need to get out more and hang out with people.”

“There, you see!” Araceli pronounced in triumph. “Exactly what I said. Come over on Sunday – steaks from Doc Wyler’s cow, that we bought half of, this year. You’ll be amazed at how good, grass-fed beef can taste.)

“You know,” Patrick announced, with a broad grin. “I think it’s time for a road trip. How about we all go to Marble Falls – and cheer on Chris. I have that weekend off, you and ‘Celi can close the Café … I mean, who’s gonna be eating out over that weekend?”

“Where the hell is Marble Falls?” Richard demanded, and Patrick’s grin widened even farther. “About two and a half hour’s drive north. Heart of the Hill Country … it will be a blast. Let’s do it, ‘Celi – leave the kids with Abuelita, and have some fun! Like we used to do…”

“I’d be game,” Joe set aside his beer, and exchanged a quick glance with Jess. “If we can stop over in San Antonio for an hour or so … Jess and me, we have an errand to do there. Y’all can show Ricardo the Alamo … long as he promises not to pee on it. We can meet up at Buc-ees in New Braunfels and convoy to Marble Falls – all of us.”

“Sounds like a plan,” Patrick beamed. “Uncle Jesus says it’s OK to borrow Romeo’s Fifth-wheel – and that thing sleeps six!” while Richard demanded, “What in hell is Buc-ees?”

“You have to pee to believe!” Patrick replied and laughed so hard that he choked on a mouthful of beer.

“Count me in,” Sylvester said, and Kate chimed in agreement, adding, “I can do a quick report on it for ‘Talk of the Town.’”

“Look,” Sylvester brought out his cellphone and worked some miracles of inquiry on it. “Got a nice RV park, near enough as to make no difference … some rental cabins and a space for the RV – are we game?”

“Call me a ten-point buck,” Joe answered, with a distant look on his face. “Yeah, we’ll be at Marble Falls to cheer for Squid Medic when he crosses the finish line … but then Jess and I have some other plans – don’t we, Babe?”

“We do,” Jess replied – and Richard didn’t even try to figure out what that was all about.


So that was how, ten days later, Richard tossed a small overnight bag with some toiletries and a change of clothes into the back of Chris’ little red coupe. Chris didn’t hit the gas until they were well out on the main road north, in deference to the tires and suspension system.

“Man!” he exclaimed, as they spurted a bit of gravel behind them, and the speedometer steadily climbed to a hair below the legal speed limit. “I wish Sefton could get one of the Gonzalezes to come over with a scraper and level that broke-ass driveway of his. I shit you not, Ricardo – I drove on better-graded roads in Iraq, and that is saying something.”

“No argument here,” Richard agreed. “I just don’t think the Grants really expected all the traffic this year. I know I didn’t…” He was still simmering over the regularly-occurring medium-distance death-stare from Gunnison Penn, although they did their mutual best to avoid coming from within twenty feet of each other, under the terms of the legal injunction. Obviously, it still rankled with Penn.

“Well, never mind, bro!” Chris seemed unusually light-hearted. “The open road calls! We meet up in New Braunfels at noon, hit Marble Falls by mid-afternoon, set up camp … and then then I gotta be ready at oh-dark thirty. I’m aiming to do the whole course in under four hours, based on my last half-marathon. Hey, you should join me sometime – you’d get a kick out of running and the exercise would do you a world of good.”

“Riding my bike supplies that need, thank you,” Richard answered. “Frankly, I couldn’t see the appeal, even when I was at school. Run around and around the track, looking at the backsides of all the fellows ahead of you? Nothing more boring can be imagined, and since I’m not a poof, I didn’t even get any jollies from the exercise.”

“You could join a club or something,” Chris shrugged, echoing Araceli’s earlier words. “You need a social life, for sure. Hey – you could learn to drive, even. Widen your horizons beyond Luna City.”

“I like my horizons just as they are,” Richard argued. “I agreed to join you all on this little jaunt – isn’t that enough?”

“True, dat,” Chris slanted a sideways look at him. “OK, so no more bugging you about getting out. But still – you ought to learn to drive, like a real American.”

“I will take that advice into active consideration,” Richard said, in such a flat monotone that Chris dropped the subject at last.

They zoomed northwards along Route 123, which angles north and west through the gently-rolling ranchland country, stretches of pastures and thickets of oak, cedar and hackberry trees, interspersed with small towns like Stockdale, Sutherland and La Vernia where it was necessary to slow down, and now and again obey the strictures imposed by a stop sign or a traffic signal light. Those towns all looked rather like Luna City absent the grandeur of Town Square, no matter if they went straight through the town center or around the outskirts; a row of businesses, a straggle of cottages and double-wide trailers, a sign boasting the prowess of the high school football team – and then out into the pastures and groves again, dotted with grazing cattle and the occasional oil or natural gas pump or tank.

Until they came to San Antonio – the city, which from the southern approach was not one of those sprawling ones, attended by a steadily denser concentration of suburbs, strip malls and industrial parks. It seemed to Richard as if Chris’ coupe topped one last rise of the highway ribbon – and there was the city, a modest gathering of high-rise towers just ahead.

“I promised you a look at the Alamo,” Chris grinned. “You can’t say you’ve been to Texas without you see the Alamo…”

“I am breathless with anticipation,” Richard commented, with a complete lack of emotion. Half an hour later, after Chris had deposited the little coupe in a city parking garage, and they had walked down one street, turned an urban corner and sauntered down another, Richard brought much more feeling into it. “Stone the bloody crows – is that it? It’s … so small – it never looked like that in the movies!”

Chris was laughing, in what Richard considered to be a completely heartless manner. “Ricardo, man – that which you see before you was only the least part of a larger establishment – the post chapel of a frontier garrison, as it was. The original place – well, the walls around it went all around the outside edge of this plaza – most of it mud-brick and a single room deep. The chapel and the long building next to it were made of stone. Prolly why they lasted so long. But come on – you gotta see the inside, and the list of names. There were some of you Brits fighting here at the last, you know. And a mad Scot who played the bagpipes, too.”

Borne along on Chris’ unaccountable enthusiasm, and interested in spite of himself, Richard submitted to being dragged along. It was barely mid-morning on a Friday; the pleasant and oddly-shaped plaza was not particularly crowded. The classically Victorian bandstand reminded him of the one in Luna City. At every few paces, Chris pointed out a significant place where something or other had occurred –

“You come here often?” Richard finally asked, as the heavy wooden door closed after them with an ecclesiastically serious thud.

“All the time, when I was at BAMC,” Chris answered, in hushed and reverent tones. “Miz Alice and Miz Letty used to bring me, when I could get a day pass. There’s a nice garden at the back. Miz Letty, she was doing some research at the Daughters of Texas library – that’s around the other side. Miz Alice – she would get tired, and we would go sit in the garden, wait for Miz Letty to get done. And she would tell me stories about this place, about her family, and I’d talk about J.W., mebbe. And then we would walk around to this old-school deli place on Commerce and have Reuben sandwiches and real old-fashioned root-beer …”

“You sound as if you are fond of the place,” Richard commented. “As well as being almost embarrassingly knowledgeable.”

“I am,” Chris laughed, sounding slightly uncomfortable. “Miz Alice made it sound … you know, real to me. And Miz Letty – she knew so much. Between the two of them, I could see it in my head, you know? They were just guys. Real guys. Betting they talked dirty, knew that likely they wouldn’t ever see their families again, but that they trusted the ones to their right and left … and they had something to believe in, at the end. Did you see that Billy Bob Thornton move about the Alamo? I did. There was a bit in it that stuck with me – Colonel Travis saying that Texas was a second chance. That’s just what Luna City was for me; a second chance. Bet it was for you, too. A second chance at getting something right in your life. Something meaningful to hold to and believe in, a chance for something real and good, for friends that believed in you … well, anyway. This is the sacristy room – where the womenfolk holed up in at the last. And there’s the list of the garrison. See any names you know?”

“Not a one,” Richard replied. “But … which was the crazy Scot with the bagpipes?”