Cruising the Green of Second Avenue

Wild Child Publishing has issued the second volume of short stories in Cruising the Green of Second Avenue. The tales take up where Vol. I left off — bringing back Klein the Biker, Straight Charlie and Sammy the Madman while introducing new characters stumbling over life’s difficulties in the late 60s. Vol. II is an e-book published by Wild Child Publishing that you can download, save as a pdf (Adobe) file and print. Read both volumes and see that life isn't all that serious. Find it at Barnes & Noble, Amazon and other online book sellers.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Tree in the Trail, the Newest Septuagenarian

Tree in the Trail will be 70 years old this year — not a long time in some trees’ lives, but an eternity for many books. Still, readership of this evergreen classic (no pun) continues to grow. Parents are still buying the book for their children, as are grandparents who want to share a country whose values are changing too quickly.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Home Is Where the Heart Rests

Having a foreign-born spouse immediately places a man — or woman — in the curious cultural position of sharing in two worlds. In the interest of full disclosure, I’ll be quick to say that living in Taiwan, the Republic of China, for a year gave me a second home. It also gave me a first (and only) wife.

I rarely write about expatriates or the pain of leaving a home behind. Or about the richness of bringing up our family in a Sino-American culture with twice as many holidays. Of the many stories I’ve heard about bi-national people, one stood out. A friend did cross the world to live in the States, did return to Taiwan on homeland visits, and did lose a husband and child. It was poignant when I saw her treated as an American hwa-chiao in Taipei’s market, but as a bargirl when she tried calling her husband at the military post where he was stationed.

The memory of this situation led years ago to drafting “Test of English as a Foreign Language.” I wrestled with the story line, the character and location until, just a few months ago, the ending resolved itself. To paraphrase Thomas Wolfe’s wise words, “You can never go home again.” You can read “TOEFL” at Rose and Thorn Journal ( I hope you’ll enjoy it, appreciate the fact of having a home if that’s your situation, or embrace your homelessness as an adventure if you don’t.

Monday, May 7, 2012

Self Scrutiny, or Through a Mirror Skeptically

I ran across this old bit of Q&A chatter about “The Case of the Checkered Murder” that I’d put up in a writing group after having a satirical murder mystery published in June 2008 by Mystery Authors, at

Q Walt, would you stop scribbling for a moment and explain what you were doing with this story?

WG The detective yarn is ripe for satire. This is a send-up of the clich├ęs found in Raymond Carver, Agatha Christie and, currently in a New York Times serial, by Cathleen Schine.

Q Isn’t that sort of like mocking one of the Little Golden Books? Detective fiction is easy picking for satire because it’s so stylized. Satire indicates the writer feels he/she is superior to the work being satirized—but your choice of subject doesn’t have the greatness to be poked at.

WG Satirical pulp is a good place to start. I asked whether these writers had a sense of humor, and no one said they did. I could also do a send-up of sci fi (bug-eyed monster at the supermarket) or New Yorker fiction (characters who do nothing, go nowhere, and then wonder just what happened). I also like the inherent irony of the detective genre — the combination of circumstance or a result that’s the opposite of what’s expected or considered appropriate. Besides, I have published some detective stories.

Q Okay, we start with the stereotypical tough Private Investigator with a hangover...

WG Who’s a woman and not a man, but who still talks in staccato bursts and drinks rye. Then there are the “usual suspects.” A checkers theme instead of the usual intellectual chess metaphor. An ending right out of The Maltese Falcon.

Look, this is humor — not literature. Just check out the crap that passes for drama for humor on TV. Soap opera, for example, is inherently histrionic and two-dimensional. Isn’t there something worth thinking about here?

Q Don’t be defensive — but that cheese sandwich ploy is rather lame? This little piece took you — what? Five minutes to dash off?

WG More like half an hour — plus rewrite. But I don’t have the patience to write something serious. It all gets rejected.

Q Writing is such an artificial form of communication, and assumes readers will actually interpret words and ideas in the way you mean them to. Why on earth don’t you get a real job?

WG I truly believe less than a small percentage of personal communication gets through to both parties. She asks, “Do you want to see a movie?” when she really means “I’m bored to tears.” You say, “I don’t mind seeing that Oscar nominee,” when you’re saying, “Damn, I’d rather sit at the PC and install that new program.” Having made this somewhat defensive statement, I write because I failed semaphore in Cub Scouts, no one knows Morse Code, and English has the largest number of words in any language. If we can’t communicate — thoughtfully, calculated, precisely — in English, how else can we?

Q So you took a shot at satire. What’s the value of writing that never gets read? It’s the old “if-a-tree-falls-in-the-forest...” conundrum. And, you’re not exactly Michael Crichton or Stephen King.

WG It isn’t a question of why, any more than you ask why a fish swims or a bird flies. I write because pursuing a character or an idea in the formal framework of a short story or an article is cathartic. Moreover, it’s fun. At the very worst, “desk drawer” writing is akin to peeing in a blue serge suit. It gives you a nice warm feeling and no one notices.

Q Any more, er, plans to write satire?

WG Well, blogging is a good subject. It’s the new oral tradition — people chatting on a level you’d expect among strangers on an elevator. But they spill their guts about the most amazing things!

Note to friends and readers: This was a self-interview. If you’d like more serious fiction, try “Queen at the End of the Bar,” published by Gumshoe Review, at