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IF YOU WOULD LIKE A *FREE* COPY OF SOME OF MY BOOKS, they’re available at Smashwords.

I was gonna space this out over several days, but what the heck, these coupons have an expiration date on them, so let’s get it all out of the way at once

Just go here to find a copy of my book, “It’s Not Rocket Science.” All ya gotta do is go here and then use the coupon code VF97F when you’re purchasing it. “It’s just that easy!”

“The Care and Feeding of Nightmares” is my most recent collection, and I think it’s the best thing I’ve ever written. Go here and use the code NT98B

“Ice Cream and Venom” is my first collection of short stories. Go here and use this code VZ84U

“The Bones of an Angel” is another collection of short stories. Available here and the code is PM79U

“The Undead at War (And Other Stories)” is my most popular book. Just go here and here’s your code MJ37R Larry Niven even blurbed one of the stories in that book.

“After Conquest” is a novel I co-wrote. Go here and the coupon code is UW73B

There’s also a book of my poems and lyrics on there called “Everything is Something’s Food,” but I’d reccomend you all avoid that one. It’s pretty bad. No coupon for that one, it’s always free. I couldn’t actually take money from people for that one in good conscience 🙂

If you have friends who you think might be interested in this stuff, please feel free to spread this information around.

Thank you for your consideration!

If you’ve been curious about my books, but didn’t want to shell out the cash, now’s your chance to check it out! If you didn’t know that I wrote, well, hey, what the heck, it’s free, right? Might as well check ’em out.

The only thing I ask is that if you do grab a copy of a book, and if you actually decide to read it/them, please post a review on Smashwords and/or Amazon (You don’t have to have purchased a book on Amazon to review it). I don’t even mind if it’s not a particularly glowing review, just please post something no matter how short.

I’m Giving Away Free Copies Of All My Books!

If you’ve been curious about my books, but didn’t want to shell out the cash, now’s your chance to check it out! If you didn’t know that I wrote, well, hey, what the heck, it’s free, right? Might as well check ’em out.

The only thing I ask is that if you do grab a copy of a book, and if you actually decide to read it/them, please post a review on Smashwords and/or Amazon (You don’t have to have purchased a book on Amazon to review it). I don’t even mind if it’s not a particularly glowing review, just please post something no matter how short.

What I’m Writing In 2017 (God Willing)

Good morning! Happy New Year.
After taking last year off from writing, I am officially working again as up about half an hour ago.
Some of you may recall my friend Jim Graham, who was the author of the “Scat” series surrounding the increasingly bizarre adventures of a 23rd century US Marine. If you don’t, the first couple books are currently free, so check ’em out. 
Anyway, he was about 80% of the way through the fourth book in the series, “Big Pharma.” Several months ago he told me he was dying of cancer, and asked me if I’d please finish the novel for him. I said, sure, obviously, and that was the last time we spoke before the end came.
Anyway, my friend’s book is the priority above any off my projects. I sat down this morning with a copy of the first book, (“Scat”) and started reading it. By the end of chapter 1 I had two full pages of notes.
Basically I think I’m going to re-read the entire series before I set pen to paper (“Finger to Keyboard?”) because I want to make sure I don’t introduce any continuity errors. I want it to follow his story, his style, his vision. I want it to be his book, not mine (Though I’ll gladly accept the “With Randall Schanze” co-credit on the cover that he promised me). Also, it’s British. I don’t want the novel to suddenly turn American. I want it to maintain the cadence and feel of something written by a Brit (Even if that does mean the American protagonist regularly says things like “Bugger” and “Sod off.”)
It’s a little daunting. Generally I write and that’s it. It pops out of my head. I write involving stuff I know, or stuff I just make up on the spot. Having to do a ton of research isn’t my normal style. I can do it, I will do it, but the length of time between me deciding to write one of my own stories, and actually starting on one of my stories is seldom more than a few hours. Here it’ll likely be a week or two, assuming real life doesn’t get in the way.
And I’ve still got no idea what the plot of “Big Pharma” is. I have the manuscript. I started to read it, but decided it needed to re-read everything from the beginning so I could be in proper context and mindset when I started.
Let me give you an idea what a great guy Jim was, though: As he was dying, he said that he had a pretty loyal core of fans who read all his books – moreso than me – and that he hoped my name on his project would increase *my* readership. No, really.
It’s an honor to be working on this.
In the larger scheme of things, I have several projects I’d also like to have finished this year, to make up for taking last year off. After Jim’s novel, I intend to finish my own longsuffering, way-too-ambitious novel, “The Fall of St. Grissom,” which I haven’t touched in more than two years. I’m going to be co-writing a sequel to “After Conquest,” I’ve got my obligatory annual book of short stories, and possibly a novel about my time in the very weird Accelerated Christian Education system in the 1970s.
Time permitting, I’d also like to revise my book of lyrics and poetry, “Everything is something’s food,” to be a little less sucky and a good deal longer, and re-issue that as a kind of second edition. I’m toying with the idea of a short book *about* the deservedly-forgotten series, “Man from Atlantis,” and I’ve toyed with the idea of putting out a book of grade-zed movie reviews, a’la “The Golden Turkey Awards,” which I thought might be fun.
We shall see.
Anyway, “Scat” and Jim come first. Check back here for progress reports. I’d like to thank my readers (I’m hesitant to claim I have fans) for their continued interest and their patience in 2016.

The Cobra Emperor’s Brave Battle With Addiction

[Over breakfast]
Me: “Someone posted a meme on Facebook saying that Cobra was more racially diverse than the Republican party.”
Bey: “Cobra from GI Joe?”
Me: “Yeah. With the exception of Stormshadow, all of Cobra is white.”
Bey: “Cobra Commander is a lizard.”
Me: “Ok, wih the exception of Stormshadow and Cobra Commander, they’re all white.”
Bey: “What does Serpentor count as?”
Me: “A mean drunk?”
Bey: “No, I mean, he’s composed of the DNA of all these huge insane military leaders…”
Me: “And Eric the Red for some reason, who was none of those things. He just killed a guy in a bar fight, jumped town, discovered Greenla…”
Bey: “I know the story, Dad. Anyway, they’re all different races, so what does that make Serpentor?”
Me: “WHAT other races went in to making up Serepentor? The only one I can think of was Genghis Khan. So He’s slightly Asian.”
Bey: “No! Khan was the one they *couldn’t* get, remember? So they had to substitute DNA from Sargent Slaughter. So Serpentor is white.”

Me: So would their plan have worked if they’d gotten Genghis Khan?”
Bey: “I don’t think so. He wasn’t renowned for his patience.”
Me: “Yeah, but maybe there was some aspect of him that Mindbender needed for this big evil emperor goulash that he didn’t get, you know, like Khan would have been the salt in the soup, and Slaughter ended up being, like, sugar in the soup.”
Bey: “Ew. Maybe. Maybe he just offset other disabilities. Dude, just based on the number of Romans that went into making Serpentor, the guy must’ve been born with lead poisoning.”
Me: “Maybe Sargent Slaughter was a functional drunk? One of those guys who are kinda buzzed all the time, but can keep it together during business hours? It seems reasonable to assume most of his other ‘fathers’ were heavy drinker.”
Bey: “…and he didn’t have Slaughter’s ability just put that on the sheld.”
Me: “Exactly! So the episodes of the show we saw were all centering around his conflicts with the Joe team. What they didn’t show were the conflicts of his day-to-day struggles of coping with his alcoholism and anger issues.”
Bey: “Like ordering pizza!”
Me: [Laughing really hard]
Bey [Impersonating Serpentor’s voice]: “That’s right, I want two extra larges, with sausage and pepperoni and anchovies! And I want it in thirty minutes or less! THIS I COMMAND!”
[Now impersonating bored Dominos employee] “Serpentor, we’ve been through this before…”
[Serpentor’s voice again]: “Yes, I know it’s 3AM, and I’m on a tiny island in the middle of the gulf of Mexico and you’re hundreds of miles away. Your guarantee is thirty minutes or less! Now get it here. This I Command!”
[Employee]: “You tortured and killed our last delivery guy….”
[Serpentor]: “Because you failed to live up to your end of the bargain. Pray you do not disappoint me again.”
[Employee]: “The manager has informed me that you’re on our ‘no delivery’ list, at least until you give back Barry’s body. Sorry.”
[Serpentor]: “But you’re the closest one to my house! What am I supposed to do?”
[Employee]: “You’re the most powerful terrorist in the world, and you’ve got your own country. Don’t you have someone there who can make you pizza?”
[Serpentor]: “No. I had my snake-spears swallow their hearts in a vicious rage after they disappointed me by using canned sauce.”
[Employee]: “We use canned sauce, too.”
[Serpentor]: “Really? Because yours tastes fresh…”
[Employee]: “I’ve got other calls to take.”
[Serpentor]: “Don’t hang up on me! I am Serpentor! The Cobra Emperor! I am made up of the DNA of history’s greatest conquerors! And a WWF star. And also Eric the Red for some reason! Give me pizza! This I command!”
[Employee]: “I’m sorry, sir, no. Maybe try Papa Johns or something.” [Click]
[Serpentor, screaming] “Sound the alarm! Alert all our elite strike teams, we are attacking Corpus Christie, Texas! The Crimson Guard will take point! And prepare my hover-chariot! I shall lead the assault myself! THIS I COMMAND!”
[Tomax, sighing]: “I really miss Cobra Commander.”
[Xamot], “I know, right?”

MY DIARY: Day 10,041 (Naked with a shovel)

My ongoing exciting adventures with holes!

I’m manic-depressive (Or in modern hip-kid lingo, “I’ve got Bipolar Disorder”). Once, a couple years after I got married, my wife was out of town on work for a couple months. This meant that I had no one to say, “Go to bed, you idiot,” or “Wake up, you idiot!” which meant my sleep patterns got wildly disregulated and sometimes I’d just go a day or two without it entirely. Sleep. Feh. Who needs it? Quitters, that’s who! As anyone Bipolar can tell you, that’s the fastest way to having a manic episode.

So it’s after work, and I’m sitting in the house we were living in at the time, and suddenly I think, “I’m going to build a working one-person submarine!” Granted, I think stuff like that all the time because I am still basically a 9 year old, but this time was different somehow. Somehow I got it in my head that I had enough stuff in the house to do it, or at least get pretty far in to it, then after work I’d pick up some fiberglass…uhm…stuff…not sure what…and make the hull. Might need someone to help me with the windows, but at any rate, I should have a working submarine and tooling around in the river by the end of the week. How hard could it be?

The awesome thing about Manic Depression is that this seems perfectly rational.

Anyway, so I spent a few hours in the back yard dragging metal and stuff around, making piles of stuff, re-arranged piles of stuff, and finally concluded that I had neither any metal nor any means of welding metal, so, screw it, I was just gonna dig a well.

Not sure why, exactly, it’s not a self-evident as building a submarine, but I *think* it had something to do with figuring out how deep the water table was. Couldn’t be TOO deep as I lived near a river, right? It was pretty hot out, so I took off my shirt, and I dug and I dug and I dug, and I realized I was getting my pants filthy, so I took ’em off, too. I was in a hole, after all, and my back yard was fenced. Who was gonna notice?

I got down to about five feet, and still hadn’t hit water. Wasn’t even damp. I decided to take a break. My shoes were angering me for some reason. I have even less memory of why than I do of why I suddenly decided I needed a well. (Conversely, the submarine still makes sense to me) Weighing the pros and cons, as one does in such situations, I decided I should set fire to my shoes and throw them in the hole.

This I then did.

I threw some more crap down the hole to keep ’em burning. (Shoes are surprisingly hard to burn, and the ventilation at the bottom of a failed well is pretty poor).

Well, this is boring. What should I do now? I’m naked. It’s like 4 AM, my shoes are on fire, I can’t finish my sub until Home Depot opens, the water table is way deeper than I thought. I know! I’ll run and jump through the flames repeatedly!

This I then did, until I got tired or the shoes burned out, can’t remember which came first, though I think it was the shoes. By now the sun was coming up. so I got a shower and maybe an hour of sleep, but maybe not, went to Dennys, then the office, and another exciting work day of staring crazy-eyed at people had begun!

Yeah! Holes! They’re awesome, whether burying you alive when you’re seven, or failing to become wells when you’re 27!

So obviously I’m medicated and in control now, haven’t had an episode in years. The thing is, I still remember that as being a pretty fun night.

DIARY: Day 7418

In the summer of 1987 I worked the swing shift at the Home Shopping Network. Start at Midnight, get out at 8:30 AM, get home around 9:30 eat breakfast, and go to bed until around 8 PM.

The only thing on TV when I was eating was “The Adventures of Teddy Ruxpin,” which I watched because, much like the target audience, I like bright colors and stories that won’t interest me enough to keep me awake. Now, unlike nearly all cartoons aimed at little kids in those days, it actually had a serialized storyline. Each episode ended in a cliffhanger, which was resolved in the start of the next episode. So I watched this sort of absently while eating corn flakes for, I dunno, 60 days? 90? Most of the summer.

Then one day I missed an episode.

I was livid. I was furious. I was hat-stomping mad (And this was the 80s, so people wore hats) I mean, the Fobs were in a really bad way at the end off the last episode, and Grubby wasn’t able to save them, and it all looked pretty dire, and I DIDN’T GET TO FIND OUT WHAT HAPPENED!

It nagged at me. All day long I was stomping around like I was gonna deck someone. If anyone asked me what was wrong, I’d spill out strings of incoherent mumbles that sounded like “Mumble mumble mumble goddamn mumble f-cking Teddy Ruxpin mumple mumble bastard mumble mumble misterable son of a bitch Fobs mumble mumble mumble sh_t, goddamnit!” And while I don’t think I broke down in tears at any point, the option was certainly on the table.

That night at HSN on the phones, while taking orders, I asked the callers (Mostly 90 year old ladies calling to buy capodemonte soup tureens and what have you) if they’d happened to catch Teddy that morning, until my manager got really really mad at me.

During my 10th or 12th hyperprofane outburst it suddenly struck me that I was waaaaaaaaaaaaaaaay too involved in all this and that, in a larger sense, I was watching way the hell too much TV.

I decided then and there that my new years resolution would be to watch no TV whatsoever for a year. It kicked in four months later, and I actually kept it: I watched no TV whatsoever that next year. Fortunately, it was 1988 so there was nothing good on anyway.

Before, During, and After the Trail of Tears

Back in the 19th century, there were what they called “The Five Civilized Tribes.” These were the Cherokee, the Choctaw, the Chickasaw, the Creek, and the Seminole.

They were called that – even by themselves – because they’d recognized the times had changed, and adopted White ways. They’d abandoned most of their traditional ways of living, moved into American-styled towns and houses. Most took up then-modern farming and other jobs. Most of them had learned to speak English at least as a second language. Most of them had converted to Christianity. A great many had adopted White names. As all these tribes were Southern, they’d even adopted slavery. Despite this, Indians weren’t citizens in those days, and most of them lived in Tribal lands defined by treaty (This was before Reservations), in Indian-only communities. (Not counting missionaries, slaves, and the occasional White spouse). It’s important to remember that Indians weren’t citizens in those days.

The Cherokee were far and away the most successful of these tribes, mostly because they’d always been the most liberal. I mean “Liberal” in the sense of being quick to dispense with tradition if something better comes along. Pragmatic, as well. The other four “Civilized Tribes” were a bit slower. Indians as a whole were very reticent to change traditional ways. Who can blame them?

The Cherokee, meanwhile, had their own newspapers in their own language written in their own alphabet, they had a good school system, and they were pretty wealthy, as these things go. Though there were several groups in several different places, the bulk of them lived in a large hunk of land in Georgia, and their capital was a town called “New Echota.”

Eventually Gold was discovered on Cherokee land, and everyone was screwed. White settlers wanted that land, and started taking it, often violently. This led to what eventually became “The Indian Removal Act,” in which Congress decided to gather up all the Indians east of the Mississippi, and dump ’em in “The Indian Territory” (The eastern part of modern Oklahoma). While mostly this was just an attempt to get rid of inconvenient people to facilitate a land grab, there was a degree of mercy to it as well. They were going to grantee the Indians’ safety, move them to new lands where they wouldn’t have conflict with white folk. This was a shitty, racist thing to do, obviously, but in the wonky mindset of the times, Whitey Devil thought he was being nice.

Famously, the Cherokee mounted a serious legal challenge to this. It went all the way to the Supreme Court of the United States and…surprise!…The Indians Won! It didn’t matter. Andrew Jackson challenged the Supreme Court to enforce their decision, and nobody knew what to do about it. They attempted (Eventually) to impeach him, but that failed. Now, it’s important to realize that Andrew Jackson didn’t hate Indians. Two of his sons were adopted Indian Orphans, and by all accounts he loved them dearly and didn’t care about their race. He really, really, really wanted the Five Civilized Tribes’ land, however. And he kinda hated the Supreme court.

Ok, so here’s where it gets interesting:

The Cherokee realized they were screwed. They had about two years before they were evicted. The Cherokee were ruled by a council, with two factions in it: The “Pin” Cherokee and the regular old Cherokee. The “Pins” were pureblood, insofar as anyone could be sure, and wore pins – essentially club pins – to make sure everyone knew. These guys had way more voice on the council than anyone else.

The council hatched a plan: Concluding that a little of something is better than all of nothing, why not approach the Federal Government with a counter-offer? Rather than wait for the deadline for removal, they’d offer to leave a year early *IF* the Federal Government would pay them for the land, and arrange transport and provisions. This would get them some money, whereas if they waited the lands would just be taken, *AND* it would allow them to get to Oklahoma a year before the other tribes and gobble up all the best land, giving them an advantage. They figured the federal government would jump at it. It really was a very clever plan.

The Pin Cherokee adamantly opposed it. After a lot of argument, and that deadline ticking closer, the regular Cherokee on the council decided to just go ahead and do it anyway. As predicted, the Feds jumped at it because it allowed them to open up tens of thousands of acres – some with gold – up for settlers much earlier.

This was only questionably legal. The Council went behind it’s own back and ignored the more powerful members, so it was probably an illegal treaty. The Pin Cherokee opposed it ’til their dying days, but the Feds said “No takebacks,” and thus we have the Trail of Tears.

All the bad stuff you know about it is true, but it’s more expansive. The first batch of Cherokee were supposed to be met at various locations along the route by various organizations – mostly church groups – who’d give them supplies, food, shelter, etc. Given this, the Army underestimated the amount of supplies and transport they’d need. For whatever reason, the civilian resupplies didn’t materialize. Mostly it was bad scheduling, people not keeping promises, or the Cherokee making slower progress than expected, meaning they didn’t make connections. It was FUBARED. As a result, the Army (Who weren’t particularly sympathetic, but didn’t hate them) didn’t have nearly enough supplies to make up the difference. Added to which, the weather was just beyond awful for months. The end result was that a whole bunch of people died, but it’s important to note that nobody was *trying* to kill them. I am not justifying this. IThis was a hugely awful racist thing to do, but its disastrousness owed more to typical bureaucratic fuckupery than flat out Nazi-styled evil. In fact, many of the Army complained about how awful the thing was.

So then they got to Oklahoma, and promptly gobbled up all the good land, as planned.

Now, not all of them went willingly. Many refused to accept the treaty, and there were several waves of forced migration. President Van Buren never opposed removal, but he did tell the army to stop the draconian shit (“show every possible kindness to the Cherokee and to arrest any soldier who inflicted a wanton injury or insult on any Cherokee man, woman, or child.” which is 19th-century-ese for “Knock it the fuck off!” He put nicer officers in charge) After that, things got better. Not pleasant, mind you, certainly not *right,* but more on the order of a normal long wagon train and less like the Batan Death March. The subsequent forced removal of the other Indian tribes was far less eventful than the clusterfuck the Cherokee were forced through. I’m not being glib, but volunteering to go first means you’re gonna be going through the system before the bugs get worked out.

So when the other Civilized Tribes got there, they had no choice but to live on crappier land. There were a lot of hard feelings. There were also a lot of hard feelings among the Cherokee themselves, and a bloody civil war broke out within the tribe almost immediately. It lasted for seven years, with the Pin Cherokee and their supporters on one side, and the regular Cherokee and their supporters on the other. The war didn’t really end until everyone of the Regular Cherokee Councilmen who’d signed the treaty were dead.

Except one: Standhope Oowattie, who also went by Standhope Wattie, Stand Wattie, or just Stand. This was a translation of a Cherokee word, but he seldom used it in Cherokee. Being just a hell of a cavalryman, he managed to survive the whole war, and negotiated his safety at the end.

There were understandably some super-de-duper-de pissed-off feelings towards the US after all this, so when the Civil War started, the Cherokee naturally sided with the South. Some Cherokee recognized this as a bad idea, of course, and went Union. This led to yet another civil war within the tribe, though not as bad as the first since the dispute came down to “I hate the United States” vs “I hate the United States too, but there’s no way we can win.” The angrier side made up the majority, again, understandably.

For its part, the Confederacy was surprisingly pro-Indian. They had a very weak Western boarder, and they knew it, and figured Indians were ready-made Horse Cavalry. The Five Civilized Tribes agreed, and were promised some kind of special representation in the CSA congress once they won. It’s unknown what the details of this would have been, and undoubtedly the CSA wouldn’t have kept their word anyway, but the Cherokee and the others fought really well.

Stand Wattie once again proved to be a really good military man, and eventually was promoted to Brigadier General in the Confederate Army. He was the first American Indian flag officer in North America, though of course he was on the wrong side. After Lee’s surrender, the Cherokee held out for more than two months. Wattie (Who was Principal chief of the entire tribe by then) finally negotiated a surrender that included freedom for all his men. Then he beat it off to Texas for a while to reunite with his family and see which way the wind was going to blow. Predictably the Confederate Cherokee were entirely removed from power, and the Union Cherokee were in power, so Stand lived as an exile with the Choctaw for a while.

The man must have been as good with words as Robespierre, though, as he managed to not only talk the Cherokee into taking him back (As a private citizen, no role in government), but also to get sent to Washington as part of a committee to renegotiate the US treaties with the various tribes in the Indian Territory.

So there you go: a broader picture of a disgraceful event in our nations history, in context, and a look at not only how clever the Cherokee of those days were, but also the very many ways in which they got screwed.

Comments? Thoughts? Don’t take my word on any of this. Check it out for yourself. It’s a fascinating period in history. And if I got something wrong, please let me know. I’m working from memory here.

A Tasty Book on a Steel Beach

Once upon a time there was a guy who read a book that was so bad he hurled it across the room several times. He would have just stopped reading, but he was too OCD for that. After he’d finished it he hated the book with an anger that he had never felt for an inanimate object before. It wasn’t just a bad book, he thought, it was a personal affront, an attack, the literary equivalent of bringing someone home for a one night stand who then holds you down, mugs you, and steals hundreds of hours of your time, leaving you only with disturbing images in your memory.
He wanted to HURT. It wasn’t enough to throw it out, or take a whiz on it and then throw it out, nor even to burn it. No, he wanted to the book to pay for what it did to him.
He dreamed up a revenge which was probably unique in the history of the world: He had an old fish tank, and filled it with water. He went out back and caught a catfish. He put the catfish in the tank. He also put the book in the tank. He never fed the catfish, so the catfish ate the entire book over the course of a month or two. Catfish will eat anything.
Then he killed, cooked and ate the catfish. His insane vengeance -and his peckishness – sated, he was content. He knew he’d win any ‘can you top this’ competitions for the forseeable future, and he did, but time passed and eventually he mostly forgot about it.
Years later, through the typically perverse machinations of chance, he ended up talking to the author. Predictably they got to talking about his books.
“What did you think of this one?” The author asked. The man’s face became a rictus. He thought of changing the subject or simply lying, but he’d waited a half-instant too long and the author knew something was up. He gazed at the man with an expression that was just awkward enough that he knew there was no way of getting out of it.
“I disliked it so much that I fed it to a fish and then I ate the fish.”
The author’s jaw literally and not figuratively dropped. ‘Oh crap,’ thought the man. To try and salvage the situation he quickly added, “But I’ve read it again since then and it was really good. I don’t know what I was thinking,” he lied.
The author exploded with laughter, which was certainly not the thing the man had expected.
“That’s the weirdest damn thing I’ve ever heard. You really did that?”
“Uhm….yes sir.”
“Damn, I wish I’d thought of that. Off the top of my head, there’s a few books I’ve read that are deserving of the Catfish treatment.”
The conversation then turned to other things, and they parted – unexpectedly – as casual friends. In the fullness of time they drifted apart, since the author was, well, an author, and the man was just a crazy guy with a fish tank.
He always felt a little guilty about lying to the author about re-reading it. It was trivial as sins go, and entirely understandable, but again his OCD wouldn’t let him forget it. After seven or eight years, he finally said ‘enough’ and borrowed a copy from a friend.
‘Son of a bitch,’ he thought, ‘I really *don’t* know what I was smoking back then. This really *IS* a pretty great book after all!”