Fort Caroline and ‘The Flamingo Feather’

“Fort Caroline was an attempted French colonial settlement in Florida, located on the banks of the St. Johns River in present-day Duval County. It was established under the leadership of René Goulaine de Laudonnière on 22 June 1564, following King Charles IX’s enlisting of Jean Ribault and his Huguenot settlers to stake a claim in French Florida ahead of Spain. The French colony came into conflict with the Spanish, who established St. Augustine in September 1565, and Fort Caroline was sacked by Spanish troops under Pedro Menéndez de Avilés on 20 September. The Spanish continued to occupy the site as San Mateo until 1569.” – Wikipedia

When we moved to Tallahassee in time for me to start the first grade, the family took multiple short trips around Florida to learn about “our new state,” among them a trip to Fort Caroline. I was disappointed that the Fort was no longer there; just a memorial on or near the site where Laudonnière’s expedition probably landed.

The trip was still worthwhile, especially to me because I’d read about the French/Spanish conflict in a juvenile-level historical novel called The Flamingo Feather that was written by Kirk Munroe written in 1887. I checked the book out of my grade school or junior high school library and found it fascinating and filled with action. (I sided with the French, by the way.) In many ways, this was my introduction to the concept of the historical novel, especially one that teaches a subject about which we learned very little in school.

If the “look inside” feature on Amazon is accurate, the book appears to be set in a small type; it also comes with a boring cover and appears to be missing the original illustrations. There is no description saying what the novel is about. Where that description would normally appear; we find this:

“This work has been selected by scholars as being culturally important, and is part of the knowledge base of civilization as we know it. This work was reproduced from the original artifact, and remains as true to the original work as possible. Therefore, you will see the original copyright references, library stamps (as most of these works have been housed in our most important libraries around the world), and other notations in the work. This work is in the public domain in the United States of America, and possibly other nations. Within the United States, you may freely copy and distribute this work, as no entity (individual or corporate) has a copyright on the body of the work. As a reproduction of a historical artifact, this work may contain missing or blurred pages, poor pictures, errant marks, etc. Scholars believe, and we concur, that this work is important enough to be preserved, reproduced, and made generally available to the public. We appreciate your support of the preservation process, and thank you for being an important part of keeping this knowledge alive and relevant.”

You can read the book free on at Lit2Go where it’s described briefly: “When Rene De Veaux’s parents die he goes to live with his uncle, who happens to be setting out on an exploration of the new world.” The book is also available on Project Gutenberg where you can read it online (with illustrations) or download it as a Kindle or EPUB file.

I’m biased in favor of the book since it’s one of the first novels I read. It’s a good story even though today’s readers will find the style and approach rather archaic.


Earphones Winner from Audio File magazine.

Malcolm R. Campbell writes magical realism novels set in the Florida Panhandle of the 1950s.

Remembering ‘Twenty Thousand Leagues under the Seas’ by Jules Verne

In All the Light We Cannot See, the blind French girl Marie-Laure Leblanc is reading the novel in braille, sometimes alone, sometimes to her uncle, and sometimes into the microphone of an old short-wave radio transmitter. Captain Nemo and his submarine Nautilus become an important motif in the book. For me, the inclusion of Jules Verne’s story was a bit haunting since the novel, and even the Disney movie adaptation released in 1954, was one of my favorite novels. In fact, I think I ended up reading most of Jules Verne’s work.

I knew the story first from the film because, in 1954, I wasn’t capable of reading a Jules Verne book. That’s just as well inasmuch as the first English translations were a mess.

A friend of mine in grade school also loved the movie, so much that we ended up building a miniature Nautilus in his basement where we gave “tours” of various voyages to adults willing to pay five or ten cents depending on the length of the voyage.

I loved the accuracy of short-wave radio scenes in All the Light We Cannot See because I was once a ham radio operator. I built my own transmitter and used a 1940s-era short-wave receiver. It was always fun late at night, talking to people around the world as well as listening to commercial broadcasts originating thousands of miles away. In those days, DXing was popular and we prided ourselves in identifying commercial broadcasts, telling the stations what we heard, and getting a postcard by mail that verified we had heard the station on the date and time we said we did. I finally gave away that old SuperPro short-wave receiver a few years ago to a ham radio operator who was likely to repair it and get it working again.

Best I can tell, the current version of Jules Verne’s novel offered on Amazon might well be the best English translation yet. My feeling is that it’s a lot more accurate than earlier English translations. I know the story only too well because I have lived with it, one way or another, for almost seventy years.


Jules Verne led me into a long-time interest in science fiction novels which ultimately moved into contemporary fantasy. I write now because of him.

‘The Last Hours of Ancient Sunlight’ by Thom Hartmann

This book had a huge impact on me when it first appeared in 1998. With the exception of a few reviewers’ opinions that the concept really wasn’t new, most of those who read it were excited about the book and the clarity with which it explained that the fossil fuels we’re using now contain the energy of sunlight that plants captured eons ago, long buried in the form of coal and other fossil fuels.

As Hartmann wrote, “In a very real sense, we’re all made out of sunlight. Sunlight radiating heat, visible light, and ultraviolet light is the source of virtually all life on Earth. Everything you see alive around you is there because a plant somewhere was able to capture sunlight and store it.” This reminded me of George Wald’s statement that we carry the stuff of ancient stars within our physical selves.

I enjoyed the book, stuck it on a shelf somewhere, and ultimately forgot about it until two kids listening to a shortwave radio program in Anthony Doerr’s All the Light we Cannot See heard a lecture about the subject of sunlight hidden in fossil fuels. He doesn’t credit Hartmann, so the concept of ancient sunlight has perhaps become so common that we no longer think of it as new or from the writing output of one man twenty-five years ago.

The book was updated in 2004 with an afterword by Neale Donald Walsch (Conversations with God).

From the Publisher

While everything appears to be collapsing around us – ecodamage, genetic engineering, virulent diseases, the end of cheap oil, water shortages, global famine, wars – we can still do something about it and create a world that will work for us and for our children’s children. The inspiration for Leonardo DiCaprio’s feature documentary movie The Eleventh Hour and soon to be released HBO special Ice on FireLast Hours of Ancient Sunlight details what is happening to our planet, the reasons for our culture’s blind behavior, and how we can fix the problem. Thom Hartmann’s comprehensive book is one of the fundamental handbooks of the environmental activist movement. Now with fresh, updated material on our Earth’s rapid climate change and a focus on political activism and its effect on corporate behavior, The Last Hours of Ancient Sunlight helps us understand – and heal – our relationship to the world, to each other, and to our natural resources.

The concepts in the book are still valid and probably more urgent than they were when the book first appeared.


Malcolm R. Campbell, a conservationist, and a former mountain climber is the author of paranormal, contemporary fantasy, and magical realism novels and short stories.

Re-reading ‘All the Light We Cannot See’ by Anthony Doerr

Okay, I finished reading Micky Spillane’s Kiss Me, Deadly–which ended with a lot of people getting killed–and am now re-reading Anthony Doerr’s book while waiting for my Cormac McCarthy book to arrive. Quite a change of pace moving from rough and tumble private eye stuff to this beautifully written Pulitzer Prize-winning novel.

While I enjoy re-reading books, I would prefer reading factory-fresh new books, though neither my budget nor the space in our small house will support the arrival of two or three new books per week. So, like a lot of you (perhaps), I spend more time re-reading than first-time reading.

As an author, I spend time writing, though oddly enough, I write better when the little grey cells (as detective Poirot always said of his brain) are engaged in an interesting book. The books I read are nothing like the books I write; that means I never have to worry about inadvertent plagiarism. As far as I know, nobody writes like me, so I can’t even accidentally borrow another author’s plots or dialogue.

Doerr has a few blurbs about this book on his website including the comment by “Vanity Fair” that ““Anthony Doerr again takes language beyond mortal limits.” We would all like reviews like that. Sadly, books written by small press authors are never seen by reviewers who write comments like that. We are more or less anonymous and invisible, the upside being that few writers are likely to “borrow” plots and dialogue from our books.

Like most authors, I read better than I write. All The Light We Cannot See is a gem, the kind of work I feel fortunate to have on my shelf to I have something to do at an age when, as some bad writer once said, my get up and go as got up and went.

How about you? Do you find yourself reading cereal boxes or re-reading old stuff on your bookshelf more often than reading something new?


Malcolm R. Campbell is the author of magical realism, paranormal, and contemporary fantasy novels and short stories. 

A readers’ advisory for this collection of nine stories forecasts widely scattered ghosts with a chance of rain. Caution is urged at the following uncertain places: an abandoned mental hospital, the woods behind a pleasant subdivision, a small fishing village, a mountain lake, a long-closed theater undergoing restoration, a feared bridge over a swampy river, a historic district street at dusk, the bedroom of a girl who waited until the last minute to write her book report from an allegedly dead author, and the woods near a conjure woman’s house.

In effect from the words “light of the harvest moon was brilliant” until the last phrase “forever rest in peace,” this advisory includes—but may not be limited to—the Florida Panhandle, northwest Montana, central Illinois, and eastern Missouri.

Briefly Noted: ‘Kiss Me, Deadly’ by Micky Spillane

Mike Hammer, Spillane’s private investigator, is perhaps the world’s most hardboiled detective. The critics and even his own editors cringed at Spillane’s work since Hammer was almost as big a thug as those he hunted down. The cover of this book is typical of those on the Mike Hammer novels.  But it’s accurate inasmuch as every woman Mike meets wants to sleep with him. Until my brother, Barry slipped a three-novel volume of Spillane novels in with this year’s Christmas gifts, I’d never read a Spillane novel even though I do like noir. I think Mike Hammer is too rough for noir, though one could debate either side of that point.

From The Publisher

“Mike Hammer gives a lift to a beauty on the run from a sanitarium—but their joyride is cut short by two dark sedans full of professional killers, who knock the detective out cold. When he wakes up, his car has been rolled off a cliff, with his mysterious passenger still inside it. The feds take his gun away on suspicion, but Hammer’s not about to let that stop him. He’s on the hunt for the men who wrecked his ride and killed a dame in cold blood—and he’s going to teach them that armed or not, crossing Mike Hammer is the last thing you should ever do.”

The book was made into a film by the same name in 1955 starring  Ralph Meeker as Hammer. According to Wikipedia, “Critics have generally viewed the film as a metaphor for the paranoia and fear of nuclear war that prevailed during the Cold War era. “The great whatsit,” as Velda [Mike’s assistant] refers to the object of Hammer’s quest, turns out to be a mysterious valise, hot to the touch because of the dangerous, glowing substance it contains, a metaphor for the atomic bomb. The film has been described as “the definitive, apocalyptic, nihilistic, science-fiction film noir of all time – at the close of the classic noir period.” A leftist at the time of the Hollywood blacklist, Bezzerides denied any conscious intention for this metaphor in his script, saying that “I was having fun with it. I wanted to make every scene, every character, interesting.”

Once I finish this three-novel volume–which includes Kiss Me, Deadly–I don’t have any plans to read any of the other stories in this twenty-six-book series. I’m glad I read the novels in this three-novel book because I’d always wondered about Mike Hammer. Now I know. Finding out was part of my education.


Malcolm R. Campbell is the author of magical realism and contemporary fantasy novels and short stories. “Sarabande” is the sequel to “The Sun Singer. Both novels are set in Glacier National Park.

Potpourri for January 10th

  • How the hell did it happen. Joan Baez, whom I had a school-boy crush on years ago, is now 82. I approved of her songs, and her anti-war stance, but not her relationship with Bob Dylan. While she can’t hit the high notes the way she did when she was young, I will like to hear her sing.
  • Somehow, being too lazy to change the channel, we ended up watching the Georgia-TCU game on TV last night as the Dawgs won 65-7. I’m not really a fan of the Dawgs because I’m an Atlantic Coast Conference person and really think the SEC is trailer trash. But the Dawgs did everything right and the Horned Frogs basically didn’t do anything. The game would have been more interesting if it had been a close one.
  • I enjoyed Lydia Sherrer’s Love, Lies, and Hocus Pocus. I left a four-star review on Amazon here. This book is the first in a series of seven and really seemed more like two short stories than a novel. While the novel has been advertised as the new Harry Potter, it doesn’t have the strong plot of the Potter series.
  • I’m a bit frightened of the controls in our 2019 Honda HRV because the dashboard has buttons for stuff I’ve never heard of. This is the first car we’ve owned where we had to keep looking stuff up in the manual. I don’t care for the setting that tells me whether I’m centered in the lane or the warning buzzers that remind me to shift into Park when I turn off the engine or to fasten my seatbelt. I try to avoid pushing most of the buttons.
  • My brother Barry sent me a three-novel Mickey Spillane book for Christmas. I’ve been aware of Mike Hammer, but never got around to reading “One Lonely Night,” “The Big Kill,” or “Kiss Me, Deadly.” Good noir stuff.
  • I think that whatever the hell’s inside a toilet tank is made in hell because it randomly breaks for no apparent reason, forcing one to buy a new one (also made in hell) and install it with the worse curses on the planet. At least our secondary bathroom is functional again, though we probably won’t trust it for a while. While looking at the problem, it appeared that the water was going into the closet in the next room rather than the septic tank. It wasn’t, but emptying out an entire closet was the last thing we needed in the middle of the night. Maybe this will make a good short story, “Hell’s Toilet.”
  • I continue to be addicted to Kathy Reich’s Temperance Brennan series, enabled by family members who gave me some new novels for Christmas. Just finished two more and need a pickup truck filled with new books.


Briefly Noted: ‘Hell With the Lid Off, Butte Montana’

I changed planes several times in Butte. Unfortunately, all the old-time fun portrayed by Horace Smith in this on-the-scene 1890s book was long gone.

From the Publisher

Hell With the Lid Off: Butte, Montana is the lost manuscript of Horace ‘Bert’ Smith, who arrived in the West as a teetotaling 21-year-old adventure-seeking reporter. He later went on to publishing successes in New York as part of a salon that included Zane Grey and Upton Sinclair. With his reporter’s eye and access to characters on both sides of the law, Smith chronicles wild times, terrible tragedies and sudden millionaires on ‘the richest hill on earth’. His granddaughter, Melissa Smith FitzGerald, discovered the manuscript that Smith was finishing and trying to sell to Hollywood when he died suddenly in 1936.

Reviewer’s Comment

“Horace Herbert Smith takes you to Butte, Montana, in its copper-mining heyday to experience that brawling, big-hearted time. In a series of vivid snapshots Smith, a Butte newspaperman, describes the 1890s when, as he writes, life there “was fast and fun.” Smith died before he could publish his absorbing and entertaining memoir detailing daytime gun battles and a sermonizing standoff, the high life and labor strife, scoundrels and bullwhackers and still-breathing corpses, with a cast of real-life characters so colorful as to make fiction writers despair. Fortunately for the reader, Smith’s manuscript is finally seeing print. It’s a rare treat.” – Gwen Florio

Looks like a winner for fans of the old west. The catchy title gives you an apt clue about the town in those days.


Malcolm R. Campbell is the author of the contemporary fantasy “The Sun Singer” set in Montana’s mountains.

Cormac McCarthy’s two-novel release of the year

“These new novels flush McCarthy out of his rhetorical cover, and his decidedly austere and unillusioned answer to both of these questions is no. In a world lit by the “evil sun” of nuclear invention, all history, Bobby thinks, is nothing more than “a rehearsal for its own extinction.” And, when the world finally kills itself off, nothing will be left—not words, not music, not mathematics, not God. Not even the Devil.” – James Wood in “Cormac McCarthy Peers Into the Abyss,” The New Yorker.

Fans of Cormac McCarthy–and I am one of them–will see in the two paired novels (The Passenger and Stella Maris) which can be purchased separately or as a boxed set, a gift from the eighty-nine-year-old novelist that (perhaps) represent a swan song, a look at something different, the abyss as James Wood says.

The Passenger

NEW YORK TIMES BEST SELLER • The Pulitzer Prize–winning author of The Road returns with the first of a two-volume masterpiece: The Passenger is the story of a salvage diver, haunted by loss, afraid of the watery deep, pursued for a conspiracy beyond his understanding, and longing for a death he cannot reconcile with God.


“McCarthy returns with a one-two punch…a welcome return from a legend.” —Esquire

“Look for Stella Maris, the second volume in The Passenger series, available now.

“1980, PASS CHRISTIAN, MISSISSIPPI: It is three in the morning when Bobby Western zips the jacket of his wet suit and plunges from the Coast Guard tender into darkness. His dive light illuminates the sunken jet, nine bodies still buckled in their seats, hair floating, eyes devoid of speculation. Missing from the crash site are the pilot’s flight bag, the plane’s black box, and the tenth passenger. But how? A collateral witness to machinations that can only bring him harm, Western is shadowed in body and spirit—by men with badges; by the ghost of his father, inventor of the bomb that melted glass and flesh in Hiroshima; and by his sister, the love and ruin of his soul.
“Traversing the American South, from the garrulous barrooms of New Orleans to an abandoned oil rig off the Florida coast, The Passenger is a breathtaking novel of morality and science, the legacy of sin, and the madness that is human consciousness.”


Stella Maris

“NEW YORK TIMES BEST SELLER • The Pulitzer Prize–winning author of The Road returns with the second volume of The Passenger series: Stella Maris is an intimate portrait of grief and longing, as a young woman in a psychiatric facility seeks to understand her own existence.

“1972, BLACK RIVER FALLS, WISCONSIN: Alicia Western, twenty years old, with forty thousand dollars in a plastic bag, admits herself to the hospital. A doctoral candidate in mathematics at the University of Chicago, Alicia has been diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia, and she does not want to talk about her brother, Bobby. Instead, she contemplates the nature of madness, the human insistence on one common experience of the world; she recalls a childhood where, by the age of seven, her own grandmother feared for her; she surveys the intersection of physics and philosophy; and she introduces her cohorts, her chimeras, the hallucinations that only she can see. All the while, she grieves for Bobby, not quite dead, not quite hers. Told entirely through the transcripts of Alicia’s psychiatric sessions, Stella Maris is a searching, rigorous, intellectually challenging coda to The Passenger, a philosophical inquiry that questions our notions of God, truth, and existence.”

The Passenger and Stella Maris are spun around existential themes and big ideas like morality and science. They follow the story of two siblings, Bobby and Alicia Western, who are tormented by the ghosts of their physicist father, inventor of the atom bomb that “melted glass and flesh in Hiroshima.” In The Passenger — which opens on a frigid night at Mississippi’s Pass Christian in 1980 and traverses the 19th century American South — salvage diver Bobby Western becomes a “collateral witness” to machinations that put him in harm’s way.  McCarthy, as ever, is interested in the “madness called the human consciousness”. – Nawaid Anjum in “Inside the violent, visceral world of Cormac McCarthy, one of America’s greatest writers” The Federal.





‘Fruits of Eden’ by Patricia Damery

I have mourned the overdevelopment in California (the state where I was born) and the overdevelopment in Florida (the state where I grew up). In both cases, environmentally diverse and beautiful states have been ruined and badly compromised for the sake of tourism and development that left no stone unturned in raping the best areas first. The late Atlanta historian, Franklin Garrett, called this approach to land use within a city “municipal vandalism.” Insofar as California and Florida are concerned, I call it near-criminal destruction of the land.  Years ago, a minister said the real Garden of Eden was in west Florida. If that had proven true, it would have been paved over by now.

So I warn you, I supported this book before I even saw it.

I must also confess that I have known Patricia Damery online for years and enthusiastically reviewed her earlier books. This book comes from the front lines of climate change and bad land-use practices. So, I can’t help but show it to you in spite of my prospective biases. By the way, you can see an interview with Pat here. The book comes in two editions, one with the interior photographs in color, and the other in black and white.

From the Publisher

Damery – Napa Valley Register Photo

In Fruits of Eden, author Patricia Damery takes readers on a thirty-year journey, vividly recounting her citizen activism to protect the world-famous Napa Valley from the ravages of over-development, water plundering, government failures, greed, and damaging tourism.

Damery’s articulate and Illustrative voice is a powerful call that interweaves the story of her ranch with her history, reflections, marriage, and her husband’s onset of dementia. His Alzheimer’s began at the same time as pressure on the ranch’s sustainability became acute. Conversely, there is also great hope. The author’s relationships with colleagues in action for the valley, her children, her grandchildren and friends all share a deep love for this extraordinary place on the planet.

Over the decades Damery and her husband, Donald Harms, developed a way of life that respected the natural ecology of their land in the Napa Valley. They applied organic and biodynamic methods, left large parts in their natural state, and had a herd of goats that lived next to Patricia’s writing studio. Then climate change coupled with egregious overdevelopment overcame them, threatening to destroy their way of life. Destruction of native oaks caused erosion and groundwater depletion, insecticide use disrupted the balance of animal life, including beneficial insects, population density and tourism

I visited Napa Valley multiple times before the nefarious amongst us began turning it into hell. I don’t want to go back there again any more than I want to see again what the fools who created Daytona Beach have done to the once-precious land along the Atlantic coast. But with the help of books like Fruits of Eden and their from-the-trenches authors, maybe we can save some of the endangered Edens that remain.



Malcolm R. Campbell is the author of “Conjure Woman’s Cat.”

How did what-his face get back in my novel?

In the movie “True Lies,” Tom Arnold’s character says, “Women. Can’t live with ’em. Can’t kill ’em!”

I feel that way about characters because, what the hell, I’m drinking Scotch and writing the book while they (the characters) do whatever they want.

People think the author is in charge. Yeah, right.

This time out, I threw that dirty cop Vance McNaughton in the slammer in the last chapter, and then, in this chapter, two ladies are talking about this and that over breakfast at the diner when McNaughton shows up. He’s even driving his squad car when, at the very least, he’s supposed to be riding a desk or sitting in a cell until the nefarious stuff he’s charged with goes to trial.

This kind of thing would happen even if I used outlines because characters are in the book and outlines are outside the book in another universe that people like McNaughton don’t know about. If they did, they’d claim it was something the Presbyterian Church would dream up which is why they’re Southern Baptists.

I guess I can make do, however, if McNaughton figures out who one of those ladies is, he’s going to kill her because he didn’t hear the Tim Arnold quote in the movie.

Actually, fiction is all true lies anyway, so whatever happens, doesn’t really happen. Or, if it does, it’s not the author’s fault.


While Malcolm was raised as a Presbyterian, he thought the predestination stuff was a bunch of hooey. Actually, a lot of stuff in this old world of ours is a bunch of hooey. That’s why we have writers who write about that hooey so readers will know which lies are true and which aren’t.