Potpourri for Sunday, June 4

  • As I read Demon Copperhead by Barbara Kingsolver, I’m happy to say this novel is a dream. And yet, it’s hard for me not to think of Holden Caufield with quotes like these:  “The wonder is that you could start life with nothing, end with nothing, and lose so much in between.” “People love to believe in danger, as long as it’s you in harm’s way, and them saying bless your heart.”“Sunday school stories are just another type of superhero comic. Counting on Jesus to save the day is no more real than sending up the Batman signal.” The Christian Science Monitor review says, “Her exquisite writing takes a wrenching story and makes it worthwhile. The details are difficult, but they are never gratuitous. She thrusts the reader into the midst of real-world circumstances – especially the opioid epidemic – and she compassionately demands that we not look away.”
  • As I work on my novel-in-progress, I notice once again that finding a year-by-year timeline for whatever you want to know seems impossible. I can find overviews. I can find out how things work today. But finding out what happened exactly in any given year is a hell of a lot of trouble. Right now, I’m wondering what the standard morphine dosage was in 1955. I guess I’m going to just throw a dart at the morphine history and hope for the best when it comes to oral usage or injection. It’s been around for a long time.
  • Three of the characters in my novel served in Korea. Good news: I have Jeff Shaara’s Frozen Hours and The Last Stand of Fox Company. These books help me keep up with battles, timelines, and the mess General MacArthur made of the whole thing. If I had been Truman, I would have gotten rid of MacArthur long before the first battle. News from Korea comprised some of the first stories I saw in newspapers and in newsreels, so I would have bought these books even if I weren’t using them for book research.
  • My wife and I have most of Billy Joel’s recordings. However, since I don’t live in or near New York City, I didn’t realize how long Joel has been at Madison Square Garden. I read in today’s Guardian that, “Billy Joel will conclude his monthly residency at Madison Square Garden in July 2024, with his 150th-lifetime performance at the venue. ‘It’s hard to believe we’ve been able to do this for 10 years,’ Joel said at a news conference on Thursday. ‘I’m now 74. I’ll be 75 next year. It seems like a nice number.'” Heck, I’m older than Joel. Maybe I should start cutting back on all my books and blogs.
  • For the home viewer, we want the writers’ strike to end so that we can keep watching the stuff we watch. According to Variety, “The Directors Guild of America announced a tentative deal with the studios on Saturday night, providing pay hikes and an improved residual for international streaming. But a summary provided by the DGA makes no mention of pegging the streaming residual to viewership. That indicates that residuals will continue to be the same on streaming platforms — whether a show is a hit or a flop.”
  • Every time I make Waldorf salad, I think of the Fawlty Towers episode in which Basil is asked by a guest for Waldorf Salad but has no clue what it is. I grew up in a family that had this quite often, so I never understood why Basil didn’t know–other than the fact he’s English and those folks aren’t known for edible cooking.


Malcolm R. Campbell is the author of novels that can be found on Amazon here.


Sunday’s mixed bag for May 21

  • Sunday’s headline about the ongoing Alberta forest fires: Rainy forecast offers hope to subdue Alberta wildfires. I hope the rain helps firefighters get on top of one dangerous mess. I’ve visited Alberta many times, usually flying in and out of Calgary, and hate to see this kind of destruction. According to the story, “thick wildfire smoke has settled over much of Alberta, prompting a special air quality statement across most of the province that advises people to avoid being outside due to the health risks of the smoke. On Saturday afternoon, Environment and Climate Change Canada’s Air Quality Health Index (AQHI) listed Edmonton’s air quality at a 10+, or very high risk.”
  • While I like the premise–the impact of the observer on reality–I’m disappointed in the pace of the Robert Lanza and Nancy Kress novel The Observer. It starts off at a notoriously slow pace with the main character basically trying to decide whether she wants to be the main character. I’ll probably see it through to the end, but at this point, I cannot recommend the novel at all. I think I would have been happier reading Lanza’s nonfiction than this thin approximation of a novel.
  • Ah, a sunny day for once. Maybe I’ll be able to cut the grass that will soon be high enough to tower above the riding mower. The rain has alternated with brief periods of sunshine, ensuring that the grass is always wet and/or getting wetter.
  • If you’re a writer and not already a regular who surfs the Poets and Writers website, you may be interested in the organization’s series of helpful PDFs ($4.95 each) about the publishing process. These definitely have a mainstream focus, i.e., large publishers, agents, and MFA programs. However, even if you are self-publishing or focussing on small, traditional publishers, you may find one or more of these guides to be helpful. I used to be a member of Poets and Writers and, among other things, enjoyed their slick magazine. However, the membership was one of the things that fell by the wayside as part of my cost-cutting plan.
  • After re-reading one of James Patterson’s Alex Cross novels, which I like, I cheated on my cost-cutting plan to continue my journey through the well-written Kathy Reichs’ series of Temperance Brennan novels. I was a fan of the TV series “Bones,” based on her books and the author’s scientific expertise, I’m finding the books very compelling though–like the TV show–not for the squeamish. Actually, the show was a lot more gory than the books, delighting in the worst possible ways to find dead bodies. I like the fact that the science used in this book is real inasmuch as the author is a forensic anthropologist. There are currently 21 novels in the series.
  • Political note: I grew up in Florida but am thankful I got out before Ron DeSantis was elected governor and started fighting “the mouse that roared.”


Malcolm R. Campbell is the author of contemporary fantasy and magical realism novels and short stories. This is a contemporary fantasy set in Glacier National Park.

Gallimaufry for the Seventh of May

  • Let’s get this out of the way first. No, I did not watch the coronation. I saw Elizabeth’s, first on news reels and later on television, and didn’t have the stamina to go through the pomp and circumstance again. My wife watched it at the far end of the house. She says it went well, though since Charles I and Charles II didn’t fare as well as some English monarchs, one might have thought today’s Charles would be supersitious about the same. Apparently not.
  • My wife continues to go to physical therapy once a week to “fix” the hand that was rendered crippled by a tech at her doctor’s office who hit a nerve while drawing blood. So far, we are paying for all this. I think the doctor’s office should be paying for all this. It appears she will need PT for some time unless there’s a miracle breakthrough. Meanwhile, her right hand isn’t vey efficient at anything.
  • According to Gretchen A. Peck, in an article for Editor & Publisher Magazine, “While … champions for local news have been hard at work, powerful forces have been running a counteroffensive — undermining the press, impeding access and making it easier for members of the public and political class to sue news organizations.” It’s one thing to say reporters’ rights are secure; it’s another to tell that to the a cop while he’s taking you into custody or otherwise impeding your work as a reporter. We need to reaffirm the necessity of a free press.
  • A digestive ailment has forced me to eat bananas (gag) and stop drinking coffee (yikes). By the way, plain yogurt really tastes bad.
  • Original Cast

    Every few years or so, we miss the TV shows from one network or another because the local affiliate is fighting with DISH network over money. This year, we’re missing ABC shows. That means no “Grey’s Anatomy” just as the main character more or less leaves the show.  Since we’ve been watching the show since it began in 2005, it feels like family members have been kidnapped now that we’re missing episodes. It seems like we need to sue somebody, but I guess we’d have to prove damages other than the angst of having the program missing from our weekly schedule.

  • On top of that, we missed this week’s episode of “Survivor” because the local station pre-empted it to cover a breaking news story. Sigh.


Goulash for Sunday, April 30

  • At a time when America is divided angry, and impatient, I hold fast to a favorite quote from Lon Milo DuQuette that applies to learning magic (or anything else) requiring long-time diligence: “The magical secret to learning more than I now know is in my ability to become someone who is more than I now am.” The quote comes from his book (one of many), Understanding Aleister Crowley’s Thoth Tarot. Those of you who’ve read this blog for a while know that I swear by the Thoth Tarot, though on days when I’m not patient, I’m tempted to swear at it.
  • I also swear at waiters who serve me ice-cold red wine. The clown who started that fad needs to be given a lifetime sentence de-stemming pinot noir grapes while wearing a blindfold.
  • On a lighter note, I’ve been enjoying room-temperature red whine while re-reading Ruta Sepetys’ wonderful New Orleans novel Out of the Easy about a young woman (Josie) who works in a bookshop and cleans a whore house while trying to survive and save money for Smith College. In a starred review, Kirkus calls the book immensely satisfying, noting that, “There are some meaningful messages here: that love can come from the unlikeliest of sources—the rough-and-tumble brothel madam is much more supportive of Josie than her mother ever was—and that we are all in control of our own destinies if only we choose to be. With a rich and realistic setting, a compelling and entertaining first-person narration, a colorful cast of memorable characters and an intriguing storyline, this is a surefire winner.
  • Citadel TV Show Promotional PosterFor those of you who like spy movies and series, the Guardian loves”Citadel” even though Wikipedia says that the critics’ views were mixed. The review, written by Lucy Mangan was headlined, Citadel review – this absurdly fun spy thriller is televisual crack. The subhead is: “Prime Video paid $250m for this spy caper. Is it worth it? You betcha. It’s Mission: Impossible meets The Bourne Identity – with twists, turns and Stanley Tucci. What addictive bliss.” I think it looks promising and far more interesting than “True Lies”(TV series), the weak copy of the original 1991 James Cameron film by the same name. As Mangan writes about “Citadel,” “Twists, turns, explosions, old-fashioned fisticuffs, the deployment of outrageous gadgetry from Acme’s Deus Ex Machina range, torture scenes, new locations (the Alps, London, all over the States, Paris, Spain, Iran – I may have missed a few in my delirious, glassy-eyed state), are parcelled out in one long, glorious stream. “
  • Joe Biden Membership CardI thought the Biden campaign knew I’m a Libertarian. And yet, they keep sending me e-mails asking if I’ve recently changed parties. No, I’ve been a Libertarian for decades. Okay, okay, maybe they remember that I worked on George McGovern’s campaign in 1972, but that was mostly about the War and the Establishment as viewed by an impressionable Tarot card reader who saw (and still sees) government as the problem.
  • When I asked the Tarot how Biden’s campaign would go, I got this card. (But then, as Niels Bohr said, “Prediction is extremely difficult. Especially about the future.”) Here in the “five” card, we see that the Swords are finally shown they cannot prevail against fate. So it goes.


Sunday’s mixed bag

  • Timothy Egan’s new book A Fever in the Heartland, which came out in April, is chilling because of the vile group it describes, the fact that most people associate the KKK with the South, and the recent upsurge of hate groups. From the publisher’s description: “The Ku Klux Klan’s Plot to Take Over America, and the Woman Who Stopped ThemThe Roaring Twenties–the Jazz Age–has been characterized as a time of Gatsby frivolity. But it was also the height of the uniquely American hate group, the Ku Klux Klan. Their domain was not the old Confederacy, but the Heartland and the West. They hated Blacks, Jews, Catholics and immigrants in equal measure, and took radical steps to keep these people from the American promise. And the man who set in motion their takeover of great swaths of America was a charismatic charlatan named D.C. Stephenson.”
  • Image of Nerves in hand and armWhile nobody I know has ever had a median nerve in his/her arm knicked by a needle during a standard blood draw for a doctor’s test, this happened to my wife a month ago and now it appears she will be stuck with the cost of seeing a neurologist and with the weekly physical therapy visits. Her right hand is pretty much out of service, causing–you might guess–hardship when trying to handwrite, type something, or pick up just about anything. There’s a lot of information online about this; from that, “the best” I can see is that her PT will go on forever. I will get all of my blood draws done in my left arm from now on out!
  • I’m finally reading Anthony Doerr’s 3033 novel Cloud Cuckoo Land.  At 93 pages in, I can see that the story is just as crazy as the title suggests.  It has a 4.3 rating on Amazon, so others figured out how to soldier through the chaos. The New York Times review is headlined, “From Anthony Doerr, an Ode to Storytelling That Shows How It’s Done.” The review includes this comment: “Cloud Cuckoo Land,” a follow-up to Doerr’s best-selling novel “All the Light We Cannot See,” is, among other things, a paean to the nameless people who have played a role in the transmission of ancient texts and preserved the tales they tell. But it’s also about the consolations of stories and the balm they have provided for millenniums. It’s a wildly inventive novel that teems with life, straddles an enormous range of experience and learning, and embodies the storytelling gifts that it celebrates. 
  • My guilty TV fun includes watching “Swamp People: Serpent Invasion.” Supposing this has any reality to it, the show follows men and women catching Burmese pythons (and sometimes gators in the Everglades. I love the Everglades, a park that has survived almost every human attempt to destroy it. I saw an article somewhere that said we may never get rid of the pythons.


Malcolm R. Campbell does not include any pythons in his Florida Folk Magic Series because, at the time it is set, there were no known pythons in the Florida Panhandle. We had panthers then, however.

The four-book series begins with Conjure Woman’s Cat.

The first potpourri of April

  • If I believed in omens, I would see it as a good sign that my riding mower started on the first try when I mowed the yard earlier this week. Now I have to get the older car started after it sat idle all winter. I don’t want the newer car smelling like gasoline after I refill the gas cans for the next lawn mowing adventure–coming soon to a blog post near you.
  • As I finally finished re-reading Richard Powers’ The Overstory, my favorite quote is:  “You and the tree in your backyard come from a common ancestor. A billion and a half years ago, the two of you parted ways. But even now, after an immense journey in separate directions, that tree and you still share a quarter of your genes. . . .” I also liked: “This is not our world with trees in it. It’s a world of trees, where humans have just arrived.”
  • In her post, “My Creative Process,” a favorite author Julianna Baggott describes an approach to writing that sounds very familiar to many of us who write. For me, her lead paragraph says it all: “My creative process doesn’t have edges. I am writing all the time. I experience the world as me but simultaneously as an artist looking for moments when the story world and the actual world bounce light off of each other. I am constantly running a story in my head, sometimes a few of them. I am constantly collecting moments from life to hoard for the next story. “ And then, too, “There’s the moment, inevitably, when the project leaves me—and the process that story has carved out inside of me ends—and the project becomes a product. Art, when money is involved, becomes a commodity. This is when I say goodbye to it emotionally. It’s hard and at the time when a lot of people start to get excited about sharing it with the world, I tend to say goodbye and snip all the wires that connect the story to my heart—like I’m diffusing a bomb.” 
  • I often use my Facebook headers for pictures of the locations of my books. This one shows a scene very typical of Florida Panhandle where I’ve set Conjure Woman’s Cat and the subsequent novels in that series. I try to show prospective readers where my words will take them–and remind myself about the environment where I grew up.
  • When I used the name chow chow in my novel in progress, I wondered how many people–even in the South–know anything about this traditional Southern relish made from the last vegetables (except hot peppers) in the garden. Years ago, everyone here knew what it was and put up a lot of veggies by making it. In “real life” the relish looks just like Sally Vargas’ photo. If you want to experiment, you can find a good recipe here.
  • And, I’ll finish with a hearty “welcome back to the States” for my brother and his wife who spent about a month touring Australia and New Zealand. When they said they came home experiencing a lot of jet lag, I mentioned that when I came home from the Pacific on an aircraft carrier, there wasn’t any jet lag, and I’m betting we had better chow (not chow chow) than Barry and Mary were served on the plane.


Sunday’s Goulash

Gulyas080.jpgIt’s an affront to those of us who like Goulash (photo) to see that Americans are still messing it up by throwing pasta into it and (sometimes) calling it slumgullion. If you know where I live, don’t bring any of that swill to my house when I’m already under the weather. Also, please don’t bring over anything made with the weird ingredients that routinely appear on the “Chopped” television show. If you do, you’ll be chopped. My 2¢.

  • I’m enjoying re-reading The Overstory by Richard Powers. The Pulitzer-prize-winning novel is described as a “sweeping, impassioned work of activism and resistance that is also a stunning evocation of—and paean to—the natural world.” Next on my list (finally) is Cloud Cuckoo Land which is, according to the New York Times, “wildly inventive, a humane and uplifting book for adults that’s infused with the magic of childhood reading experiences” The book came out several years ago and it’s taken me this long to get around to it.
  • What a Sunday morning mess in LaGrange Georgia, struck by a  strong tornado this morning. Unfortunately, there’s a chance for more severe weather tonight and early tomorrow at this community 67 miles southwest of Atlanta. According to CNN, “No fatalities were immediately reported, but at least three people were injured in the storm.” We’ve had heavy rain here in NW Georgia but are out of the danger area.
  • If the rain stays away, I need to go out after supper and see if the In lawn mower will start. Probably not.
  • In my work-in-progress, the characters are arguing about whether places can be haunted. I say “no,” but then I can’t be sure, can I?
  • On the other hand, I’ll mention in a bit of shameless promotion that I do have a book of ghost stories available. Some of them might be true.


Sunday’s Goulash (with smoked paprika)

  • Pimentón Tap de Cortí (cropped).jpgNo worries, smoked paprika provides (obviously) a smoky taste but is not hot.
  • Cloudy weather in NW Georgia today at 65°.  Almost time to swap out my flannel shirts for denim.
  • Nice to see this headline: “Roald Dahl Publisher Bends to Controversy, Will Puffin Books logo.pngRelease “Classic” Version of Controversial Kids’ Books” “’We’ve listened to the debate over the past week, which has reaffirmed the extraordinary power of Roald Dahl’s books and the very real questions around how stories from another era can be kept relevant for each new generation,’ says Francesca Dow, managing director of Penguin Random House Children’s.”
  • Finally got around to reading Kirstin Hannah’s Home Front. She not only did a good job with the issue of women soldiers leaving their families when their guard units are deployed but called attention to the fact that PTSD has an impact on both the soldier and his/her family. I agree with the lawyer and psychiatrist  in the book when they say that the county, including the legal system, still has a ways to go in seeing PTSD as a real disorder rather than jargon about veterans “having a hard time.”
  • Human Desire 1954.jpgLast night’s movie from Noir Alley on TCM was “Human Desire.” I always enjoy the ambiance of a movie directed by Fritz Lang. I’m also a fan of Gloria Grahame. Glenn Ford appeared in a lot of movies, but I agree with reviewers who said his performance in this one was rather flat. Broderick Crawford was very believable as the jealous husband. As a connoisseur of railroads, this film had plenty of train footage–too much, some reviewers said. Personally, I don’t think it’s possible to have too much railroading footage in a feature film.
  • Fawlty Towers Waldorf.jpgMy wife has been making Waldorf salads recently. Neither of us can talk about them or enjoy them without thinking about the “Fawlty Towers” episode about the salad. According to Wikipedia, “The episode has been described as being ‘massively popular’ and a great success commercially internationally in the 1980s and 1990s. Its source of amusement derives from the cultural differences between the Americans and the British and the perceived differences in manners. The American is very rude in expecting food that is not on the menu and complaining about the service in contrast to the English guests who are very guarded when it comes to complaining. The book Great, Grand & Famous Hotels remarked that ‘Fawlty Towers is real to everybody who has ever worked in a hotel, anybody who has ever stayed in one, or anyone who has ever tried, unsuccessfully, to order a Waldorf salad.'”
  • IMG_2050I’m rather astonished at the fact my best friend from high school and junior high school, who’s my age, is still a captain of tall ships. And he’s even had a hip replacement at some point. I hope he’s not climbing up in the rigging anymore.


In addition to magical realism, Malcolm R. Campbell is also the author of satire.

My father was the dean of the Florida State University school of journalism He often invited old-line reports from his staff out to the house for supper. Their stories inspired this novel.

Sunday’s mixed bag

  • Don’t let the smile fool you

    Author Pat Bertram posted an interesting piece on her blog today called “Pain Management,” in which she talked about the problem of doctors prescribing lower than needed doses of opioids so that patients have to live in pain and/or the issue of pharmacies’ refusing to fill prescriptions because they think they have a right to second guess what’s on the script. I know the problem in spades. My wife and I have both been yelled at by doctors who didn’t like the meds other doctors were prescribing. (We yelled back.) We’ve fought medication-related battles with doctors and pharmacies many times, so I was tempted to write a post about it. Turns out, the subject makes me too angry to write about coherently.

  • Aw, China is ticked off about our shooting down its weather balloon.
  • I’m enjoying another Kathy Reichs novel, Grave Secrets. It’s been fun, but I think the novel suffers from too many plots. Here’s the blurb on the novel’s Amazon page: “They are ‘the disappeared,’ twenty-three massacre victims buried in a well in the Guatemalan village of Chupan Ya two decades ago. Leading a team of experts on a meticulous, heartbreaking dig, Tempe Brennan pieces together the violence of the past. But a fresh wave of terror begins when the horrific sounds of a fatal attack on two colleagues come in on a blood-chilling satellite call. Teaming up with Special Crimes Investigator Bartolome Galiano and Montreal detective Andrew Ryan, Tempe quickly becomes enmeshed in the cases of four privileged young women who have vanished from Guatemala City—and finds herself caught in deadly territory where power, money, greed, and science converge.”
  • I don’t understand how one political party says “there is no border crisis,” in spite of news reports like this one from the Associated Press, “A surge in migration from Venezuela, Cuba, and Nicaragua in September brought the number of illegal crossings to the highest level ever recorded in a fiscal year, according to U.S. Customs and Border Protection.” And. the opposition party says it has no solution. This is why I don’t trust the two major parties.
  • The photo at the top of my blog is a stand of sea oats, a protected plant in Florida. I’m very fond of them because I saw them so often while more or less living at the Gulf coast while growing up.


Malcolm R. Campbell is the author of novels primarily set in Montana and Florida.

Sunday’s mixed bag of stuff

  • Rainy and wet today here in Northwest Georgia. Robbie, our indoor/outdoor kitty is inside. He must know that heavier rain is coming. All in all, a good day to stay inside and work on the next novel in my Florida Folk Magic Series set in Tallahassee and a fictional town near the Apalachicola River. Perhaps there’ll even be something fun to watch on TV tonight like, hmm, another episode of “Swamp People” on the History Channel.
  • I thoroughly enjoyed reading Cormac McCarthy’s latest novel The Passenger. It’s different from such classics as Blood Meridian and All the Pretty Horses, but just as powerful and well-written. I agree with Ron Charles’ assessment in The Washington Post that, “McCarthy has assembled all the chilling ingredients of a locked-room mystery. But he leaps outside the boundaries of that antique form, just as he reworked the apocalypse in The Road… Western knows he’s suspected of something, but he’s not told what. The two men who repeatedly question him never drop their formal politeness—never flash a bolt gun like Anton Chigurh in No Country for Old Men—but Western knows that his life is in danger and that he must run… The style—a mingling of profound contemplation and rapid-fire dialogue, always without quotation marks and often without attribution—is pure McCarthy.” I haven’t bought Stella Maris, the companion novel yet, but I will.
  • The Guardian story about the police murder in Memphis is headlined: “Tyre Nichols’s death after police encounter was ‘failing of basic humanity’, says Memphis chief.” The newspaper notes that there were 1,176 “police-involved” killings in 2022. The daily news routinely includes a police atrocity like this or a mass shooting by some thug from the community. Many newspapers and commentators say that inflation or possibly problems at the U.S./Mexico border are the country’s top news stories. They’re wrong, I think. Violence ought to be at the top of the list.
  • No, I don’t plan to watch the upcoming Super Bowl Game. I haven’t cared for years, though if the Atlanta Falcons were playing, I might watch. I tend to watch college football, especially if the Florida State University Seminoles are playing. They had a decent season, though not as good as the University of Georgia’s Dawgs, a team I only root for when they’re playing the University of Florida Gators.
  • Okay, I’m still addicted to Kathy Reichs’ Temperance Brennan books and have three on order to read before getting to Stella Maris. I hope all of you are reading quality books these days.


All four novels in the Florida Folk Magic Series are available in one Kindle volume, a nice savings.