My Favorite American Was A Terrorist

In honor of Independence Day, I decided to write a bit about one of my all-time favorite Americans, who happened to have been, for all intents and purposes, a terrorist (much like one of my other heroes, Geronimo).

I’m talking about ‘Ossawatomie’ John Brown, the man Herman Melville called “the meteor of the [civil] war.”

Many more qualified people can argue the finer points of the causes of the American Civil War. They may say it was the last throes of agrarian society against the industrial revolution, or the assertion of the invidual represented by the southern states against the conglommerate, as characterized by the northern union, and there may something to say for all of these arguments.

But the plain fact of the matter is, whatever the myriad of causes that lead up to it, the powder keg was set off because of slavery, as clear cut a case of right vs. wrong as the Allies vs. the Axis.

And the hand that lit the match was John Brown’s.

Brown was born in Connecticuit in 1800, the son of Owen Brown, the founder of Oberlin College in Ohio.

He was raised in a strict Cavinist household. The Calvinist Christian doctrine teaches that the natural state of man is wicked depravity, that his very nature makes him incapable of redemption or ascendence to the divine. Only with God (and this is the concept known as sovereign grace) can a man find redemption. This is, not by individual merit or effort; God has chosen from all of eternity, an Elect few who are predestined from birth to receive grace and reward. The rest will be subject to God’s wrath.  This has the effect (I believe) of putting a man on constant eggshells. If every soul that will receive reward is already accounted for, how does one know if, when they die, they will go to heaven or hell? They don’t.  If a man lives a worthy life, it is because God wills it. And only he knows at the end of his life if he was one of the Elect. The same goes for a wicked man. If a man does evil, he is in his natural state. If that same man repents and becomes a righteous person, it is because he was one of the Elect all along, unless he’s only paying lip service to appear good, in which case he was damned all along anyway and is just play acting for whatever reason.

Now I write about this to try to give you a sense of what went into the volatile mixture that was John Brown.

In addition to this unique religious upbringing, he was a poor tanner’s son, in a region of the united states where the native population outnumbered the whites. As a result, he grew up in buckskins and counted native boys among his best friends. What effect this had on the racial notions of young John Brown can only be guessed, but he was raised in a fiercely abolitionist household. Now most northerners were nominally abolitionists, that is, they were opposed to the idea of slavery.

Brown had first hand experience with it.

Mainly self reliant, by the age of twelve he drove a herd of his father’s cattle to Michigan and stayed at the house of a family friend. There he observed a black boy his age savagely beaten with an iron shovel and made to sleep in the cold wearing only rags and tatters. In his own words, this made him “swear eternal war on slavery.”

In 1837, after trying and failing at numerous business ventures, Brown and the rest of the country bore witness to an escalation in pro-slavery and abolitionist conflict when the Reverend Elijah P. Lovejoy, an outspoked abolitonist minister who published an anti-slavery paper called The Alton Observer (perhaps unwisely, in the midst of the pro-slavery town of Alton, Illinois, which was a known base for slave catchers), was gunned down by a pro-slavery mob.

Upon hearing of the murder in church at an anti slavery meeting, Brown rose from his pew and announced to the congregation;

“Here, before God, in the presence of these witnesses, from this time, I consecrate my life to the destruction of slavery.”

Frederick Douglass

He spent four years in Springfield, Massachussetts, trying his hand at the wool trade and helping to establish the city as a major stop on the Underground Railroad.  Commiserating with fellow abolitionists, he befriended prominent African Americans of the time like Sojourner Truth and Frederick Douglass, the latter of which said, after dining and sleeping in Brown’s home,

“…while I continued to write and speak against slavery, I became all the same less hopeful for its peaceful abolition. My utterances became more and more tinged by the color of this man’s strong impressions.”

Thereafter, relocated Brown family (he had fathered twenty children on two women – his first wife had died) to the black community of North Elba in upstate New York, where he worked for several years to improve the conditions, and also ran a station on the Underground Railroad, ferrying escaped slaves up into Canada.

In 1854 the Kansas-Nebraska Act was passed, which opened the western territories of the same name to settlement, and left the question of whether Kansas would be admitted to the Union as a slave or free state up to the voting residents.  This had the effect of inducing pro and anti slavery forces to send droves of settlers into the state to swell their respective ranks. In what became known as ‘Bleeding Kansas,’ sporadic armed conflicts began to erupt between the opposing factions. This was the civil war in its adolesence, with junior bushwhackers and jayhawkers playing out in miniature what would rage across the entire union in a few short years.

Among the anti-slavery residents, a few of Brown’s grown sons had settled and begun organizing and arming the abolitionist-minded settlers. Writing to their father of their concern for the safety of themselves and their families, the family patriarch responded by moving west, stopping along the way at several of his own haunts, soliciting money and arms from like-minded abolitionists (Brown carried crates of .54 Sharpes rifles hidden in crates marked ‘bibles’ – these became the so-called Beecher Bibles, named for prominent abolitionist Henry Ward Beecher). He and his sons became local leaders of the anti-slavery militia.

In May of 1856 three things conspired to bring the conflict to a head for Brown. His father died, the unofficial anti-slavery capitol of the territory, Lawrence, was sacked by pro-slavery ‘Border Ruffians’ under the sanction of a corrupt sheriff, and on the floor of the Senate, Charles Sumner of Massachussetts was beaten with a metal tipped cane by Senator Preston Brooks of South Carolina, after Sumner said in a scathing anti-slavery oration of Brooks’ relative Andrew Butler;

“Of course he has chosen a mistress to whom he has made his vows, and who, though ugly to others, is always lovely to him; though polluted in the sight of the world, is chaste in his sight. I mean the harlot Slavery (and went on to insinuate that pro-slavery senators were pimps and that the main southern cause for championing slavery was so the lecherous masters could force themselves on negro women).”

Southern Chivalry – the Caning of Senator Sumner

In a rage, Brown called together his sons and a few militia members and taking up broadswords and rifles, raided the homes of five pro-slavery settlers along the Pottawatomie Creek, dragged the men out into the night, hacked them to death, and shot them.

From then on, Brown and his sons became guerilla fighters, even raiding into Missouri to liberate slaves from the auction block. They clashed with Missouri militias, defending the Kansas settlement of Palmyra and turning back a superior force for a time at Ossawatomie (earning him the nickname ‘Ossawatomie Brown’).  One of Brown’s sons, Frederick, was killed in the latter fight.

In late 1856, Kansas governor John W. Greary ordered an end to hostilities, offering amnesty to both sides upon the cessation of conflict. Brown and his surviving sons headed East to raise funds for the cause.

The cause, for Brown, possibly unbeknownst to some of his wealthy, pacifist backers, was to wage total war on the South and incite servile insurrection on a mass scale. Brown had been germinating this plan since his introduction to the Underground Railroad.

Nat Turner

For inspiration, he looked to Spartacus, the Thracian gladiator who trained and commanded an army of slaves against the Roman Empire, and to Nat Turner, the black preacher who in 1831 led 56 slaves in an armed uprising in Southhampton, Virgina which resulted in the deaths of 160 whites and blacks, and his own eventual capture and execution. Brown was also spiritually inflamed by the figure of Moses in Exodus (whose likeness he even took on in his later years, cultivating a long white beard) and Cinque, who led the slave mutiny on the Amistad.

His plan was to raid a federal arsenal of its stores, and march across the south, arming slaves and burning plantations as they went, looping up into the Adirondack Mountains to establish a free and separate colony of freed blacks.

After months of meeting and preparation, Brown gathered together a force of 18 men (including his sons Watson, Owen, and Oliver), including free blacks and one fugitive slave. Ready to enact his plan, he paid one last call on Frederick Douglass, asking him to come along to inspire the slaves to come to him. Douglass and Brown argued through the night, Douglass trying to convince his old friend that the plan was doomed to fail. In the end, he refused.

On October 16th Brown led his band into Harper’s Ferry, Virginia, and successfully and bloodlessly took the armory, cutting the telegraph wires and taking several wealthy landowners (including George Washington’s great grand nephew) hostage. Things took a turn for the worse however, when a black baggage master, Hayward Shepherd, was shot by one of the raiders and a train passed through the town, spreading word of the action to the surrounding countryside. Local militias descended on the town and began a firefight that lasted three days.

 

Dangerfield Newby

During the siege, Dangerfield Newby, a mulatto and the oldest of the insurrectionists, who had joined Brown in the hope of freeing his wife and children still in bondage in Warrenton, Virginia, was shot through the throat by a six inch spike (the town militia, unable to use the armory ammunition, was firing anything they could stuff down the barrels of their muskets). The enraged townsfolk mutilated his body, cutting off his arms and legs and taking his ears for souvenirs.On his body was found a note from his wife;

BRENTVILLE, August 16, 1859. Dear Husband.

I want you to buy me as soon as possible for if you do not get me somebody else will the servents are very disagreeable thay do all thay can to set my mistress against me Dear Husband you not the trouble I see the last two years has ben like a trouble dream to me it is said Master is in want of monney if so I know not what time he may sell me an then all my bright hops of the futer are blasted for there has ben one bright hope to cheer me in all my troubles that is to be with you for if I thought I shoul never see you this earth would have no charms for me do all you Can for me witch I have no doubt you will I want to see you so much the Chrildren are all well the baby cannot walk yet all it can step around enny thing by holding on it is very much like Agnes I mus bring my letter to Close as I have no newes to write you mus write soon and say when you think you Can Come
Your affectionate Wife HARRIET NEWBY

On the morning of the 18th, Brown and his remaining defenders and their hostages were surrounded in the town firehouse by the US Marines, commanded by Colonel Robert E. Lee, future General of the Confederate Army, and Lt. JEB Stuart, destined to win renown in the coming war. Under a white flag, Stuart parleyed with Brown, offering to spare his life if he surrendered. Both of his sons lying dead behind him, Brown declared “No, I prefer to die here.” Whereupon the Marines smashed the engine house foors with sledgehammers and charged in firing. Brown was wounded, and Lt. Israel Green, who had borne his dress sabre into battle, inadverdantly spared him when his blade bent on Brown’s belt buckle.

Of the 18 raiders, eleven were killed, three escaped, and four were captured and sentenced to hang.

Brown’s raid was a total failure.

Yet, in the last three months of his life, the attention of the world turned to his trial. I can only liken it to the importance of the Rodney King hearings. The entire world held its breath. The liberal minded could not fathom that America could allow Brown to be executed, and the south was enraged by the notion that a terrorist attack on American soil could possibly be expected to go unpunished.

Victor Hugo wrote letters urging Brown’s pardon. Predicting the civil war, he wrote,

“Let America know and ponder on this: there is something more frightening than Cain killing Abel, and that is Washington killing Spartacus.” 

Henry David Thoreau likened him to Christ.

And Brown, despite his failure as a commander and businessman, did not fail in the last, to use the national attention he had engendered to speak out against slavery at every turn. In his cell, he responded to slews of letters and interviews, denouncing slavery as the greatest sin of the nation, and speaking out against slaveholders, pro-slavery politicians, and southern clergy who dared to condone the institution, whether directly or by inaction.

He comported himself magnificently at his trial. When his defense attorneys decided to plea insanity, Brown himself refused the motion.  When he was sentenced to hang, he is recorded as saying;

“Had I interfered in the manner which I admit, and which I admit has been fairly proved (for I admire the truthfulness and candor of the greater portion of the witnesses who have testified in this case), had I so interfered in behalf of the rich, the powerful, the intelligent, the so-called great, or in behalf of any of their friends, either father, mother, brother, sister, wife, or children, or any of that class, and suffered and sacrificed what I have in this interference, it would have been all right; and every man in this court would have deemed it an act worthy of reward rather than punishment.

This court acknowledges, as I suppose, the validity of the law of God. I see a book kissed here which I suppose to be the Bible, or at least the New Testament. That teaches me that all things whatsoever I would that men should do to me, I should do even so to them. It teaches me, further, to “remember them that are in bonds, as bound with them.” I endeavored to act up to that instruction. I say, I am yet too young to understand that God is any respecter of persons. I believe that to have interfered as I have done as I have always freely admitted I have done in behalf of His despised poor, was not wrong, but right. Now, if it is deemed necessary that I should forfeit my life for the furtherance of the ends of justice, and mingle my blood further with the blood of my children and with the blood of millions in this slave country whose rights are disregarded by wicked, cruel, and unjust enactments, I submit; so let it be done.”

In the last months of his life, abolitionist conspirators and supporters of Brown planned and prepared to execute a rescue plan. When a former compatriot of Brown’s, Silas Soule (who would heroically go on to testify against the horrible Sand Creek Massacre of Cheyenne Indians in Colorado, and later be murdered for it), managed to infiltrate the prison and tell Brown of the plan, Brown flatly refused to be rescued. He had decided he would do more for the cause of abolition as a martyr than as a fugitive.

It’s this singularity of purpose that I can’t help but admire. Here was a man who rose up at precisely the right moment and became the lynchpin of history. Abraham Lincoln is remembered as freeing the slaves, but how could there be an Emancipation Proclamation without the Civil War, and how could there be a Civil War without the selfless actions of John Brown, a man who perceived a wrong so abominably terrible in American society that he couldn’t abide it, and was unwilling to simply wait out what most beleived would be a natural, gradual end.

How could a man of that time step forward and put his life on the line for a people society taught were not his own? Was it his Calvinist sense of predestination? Or was it that he took all he had been taught, in terms of the laws of God and man, as serious and literal as it was meant to be? Why is John Brown a footnote in history, that the majority of people don’t even know about? Was it because he was a white man? I don’t believe his crusade was as much about race for him as it was about class oppression. Was it because his solution to a nationwide injustice perpetuated and accepted in society was violence?

His favorite Bible passage after all was Hebrew 9:22 – And almost all things are by the law purged with blood; and without shedding of blood is no remission.

People called him insane, and fanatical. But in my mind he was the only sane man in an insane world. He was witness to one of the most barbarous and pernicious practices our country has ever visited upon human beings, and he saw it for precisely what it was, an abomination, an affront to everything America was intended to stand for. He was the man who stood up and said no to what most people were content to ride out or pretend wasn’t happening, or write a check for and forget about. The man took up arms in an unwinnable personal crusade, and sacrificed himself and his sons on the infamous altar of liberty, if ever any man did (“I could live for the slave,” Frederick Douglass wrote, “John Brown could die for him.”). If this is insanity, then the insane should be given freer rein in this world.

Interestingly, Malcom X said of John Brown, on this very day, in 1965;

“You know what John Brown did? He went to war. He was a white man who went to war against white people to help free slaves. White people call John Brown a nut. Go read the history, go read what all of them say about John Brown. They’re trying to make it look like he was a nut, a fanatic. They made a movie on it, I saw movie on the screen one night [I assume this was Raymond Massey in either Seven Angry Men, or Santa Fe Trail – he played him twice] . Why, I would be afraid to get near John Brown if I go by what other white folks say about him. But they depict him in this image because he was willing to shed blood to free the slaves. And any white man who is ready and willing to shed blood for your freedom—in the sight of other whites, he’s nuts. . . .So when you want to know good white folks in history where black people are concerned, go read the history of John Brown. That was what I call a white liberal. But those other kind, they are questionable.”

In reading about him, the sheer complexity of coincidence surrounding him is astounding.  As he sat upon his coffin and was wheeled out to the gallows in the back of a wagon, 2,000 soldiers were amassed to secure the scene. Among them, amazingly, was another future Confederate hero, Stonewall Jackson, and an actor who had borrowed a militia uniform solely to attend the hanging. This man expressed satisfaction at the abolitionist traitor’s fate, but grudgingly admired Brown’s stoic courage when faced with his own mortality.

His name was John Wilkes Booth.

It’s as if all of history were poised about him.

Brown left a handwritten note with the executioner. It read;

“I, John Brown, am now quite certain that the crimes of this guilty land will never be purged away but with blood.”

He was right. Following his hanging, the outcry on either side of the spectrum was too intense and inflammatory to settle down. Southerners theorized that Brown’s bloody raid had been part of a Black Republican conspiracy to undermine the south. Why else would a white man risk his life to free slaves? The liberal north demonized the south as Pharisees enacting another crucifxion. The south was appalled at support for Brown’s actions, which they saw as traitorous. It was as if the entire Muslim population of America had come out for Osama Bin Laden (they didn’t, in case you didn’t know that). The first whispers of secession were heard.

And Frederick Douglass (who I think, may have turned the tide of Brown’s personal fate had he agreed to join him, for not a single Virginia slave flocked to his side) said famously;

“But the question is, did John Brown fail? Did John Brown draw his sword against slavery and thereby lose his life in vain? And to this I answer ten thousand times, No! No man fails who can so grandly give himself and all he has to a righteous cause. If John Brown did not end slavery, he did at least begin the war that ended slavery.  When John Brown stretched forth his arm the sky was cleared. The time for compromises was gone -the armed hosts of freedom stood face to face over the chasm of a broken Union -and the clash of arms was at hand.  The South drew the sword of rebellion and thus made her own, and not Brown’s, the lost cause of the century.”

Merkabah Rider 3: Have Glyphs Will Travel Notes

Before I jump into this post, Chag Urim Sameach/Happy Hanukkah.

My gift to you is, first three readers to send an email to emerdelac (AT) gmail.com get a free e-copy of Merkabah Rider 3: Have Glyphs Will Travel in .epub, .mobi, or .pdf.  Just state which you prefer. I’ll post on here when I get enough responses. (GIVEAWAY’S OVER, FOLKS. Thanks for looking – hope it was a happy holiday.)

Now on with the rest of the shew….

I like reading the thought processes and inspirations behind stuff I read by other authors. Joe R. Lansdale did this for his High Cotton collection, prefacing each story with a short bit about how it came to be. When I wrote for Star Wars I did something like this on the official blog, a sort of key to the easter eggs and references I put in the story for fans, something guys like Dan Wallace and Jason Fry still do on there.

Anyway, I’ve done one for each of the Merkabah Rider books, and it being Hankukah, felt like time to sit down and whip up one for the latest installment, Have Glyphs Will Travel, which came out at the beginning of December.

These might be partly spoiler-ific, so if you haven’t read the book yet, you might hold off and come back later.

Still here?

OK.

In Episode 9, The Long Sabbath –

Really not too much homaging in this one. The critters the turncoat riders put in the hapless adjutant and his scout are meant to be Mythos spawned of course, but they’re my own creation, sprung from me reading about the phenomenon of kamikaze ants and their last ditch method of defending their colony from invaders.

Exploding ant traps an enemy worker

Cattle stampedes are the most harrowing, violent danger I can think of for an old-time cattleman, from what I’ve read and seen. The stampede scenes in Lonesome Dove and Red River have always stuck with me. The only thing I could think of worse than being in one was being immobilized in the middle of one.

There is one extra-Rider allusion. Abe Lillard, the Rider’s best friend from San Francisco, is meant to be the half-Jewish son of Tommy Lillard, a character portrayed by Harrison Ford in a western that was a huge inspiration for The Merkabah Rider series. I would assume Abe was named for Tommy’s best friend.

Avram Belinski (L) and Tommy Lillard (R)

In Episode 10, The War Shaman –

Lots of history easter eggs in this one. It’s actually my favorite of the book as it was clearest in my head from start to finish and includes a cameo by some of the greatest of the Chiricahua Apache warriors, a people whom I have an unadulterated admiration for.

Goyaala is Geronimo of course, and stuttering Juh (pronounced ‘whoa’ if you were wondering), Vittorio and the warrior woman Lozen are all real individuals. Lozen’s purported seeing Power and the chant she uses to activate it was documented as well. As a matter of fact, all the named Apache are taken from historical record, even the outlaw Bedonkohe, Inya.

Faustus’ extra-dimensional origins have been delved into by me in an earlier post here….https://emerdelac.wordpress.com/2010/12/23/merkabah-rider-author-notes/

Of the various stories he mentions as being real, of course the whaler with the Indian figurehead is the Pequod of Moby Dick, the boy with the sword from the stone is intended to be Arthur, and the thirteen heroes with two hearts between them, well, you don’t need a ‘doctorate’ to know ‘who’ that is.

Thirteen heroes (eleven pictured) with two hearts between them.

The company of cavalry Faustus, the Rider, Belden and Kabede meet on the road are commanded by Adna Chaffee, who was an actual Civil War veteran and later became a General, seeing action in the Chinese Boxer Rebellion and the Phillipine Insurrection.

Tom Horn

Riding along with him is the famous German scout Al Seiber, who was General George Crook’s chief civilian scout during the Geronimo campaign. Tom, the boy accompanying him, is Tom Horn, the infamous range detective later hung for murder in Cheyenne,Wyoming (perhaps unjustly) and portrayed by Steve McQueen in the titular movie. Togo-de-chuz and his ‘kid’, the Apache scouts Seiber mentions as his preferred companions, were real Apache scouts, the ‘kid’ being Has-kay-bay-nay-ntayl, later known as ‘The Apache Kid.’

The Apache Kid was an interesting character who was a longtime friend (and very nearly a surrogate son) of Seiber. When a drunken scout killed his father, the Kid retaliated and became an outlaw.  He surrendered to the Army and was sentenced to a year in Alcatraz and later Yuma Territorial Prison, the latter of which he is one of the only known escapees from. He and three others overpowered some guards and fled into a snowstorm, never to be seen again. One of his pursuers was future author Edgar Rice Burroughs, then a member of the seventh cavalry!

The Apache Kid

Nacozari and the Moctezume Mining Company are both real, but the existence of the Apache stronghold of Pa Gotzin Kay is debatable. It’s tangled up with the story of the Lost Adams Diggings, a legendary gold vein, also the inspiration for MacKenna’s Gold. I’ve moved it from the traditional location of New Mexico.

Oh there’s lots of Lovecraftian stuff in this one as well. Misquamicus of course, also the subject of Graham Masterton’s great Manitou series of novels. I’ve made him a sort of endless being, on par with his brother, and tied him into most of the major Native American doings from the dawn of recorded history and on that I could find, from the early treacheries of Cortes to the Maroon rebellion in Jamaica, where I had read some of the captive Indians involved in the burning of Providence, Rhode Island had been shipped off as slaves, and I imagined Misquamacus would have found work to his liking. The Sand Creek Massacre was one of the worst acts of genocide enacted by the United States against the native populace. It was actually the basis for the original weird western stories I wrote in high school, some of which evolved into Merkabah Rider.

A deformed Misquamacus in the future, from 'The Manitou'

Misquamacus’ dealings with the Billington clan of New England are documented in Lovecraft’s The Lurker At The Threshold, where his devotion to Nyarlathotep and conjuring of Ossodagowah are both mentioned.

 The supernatural aspects of the bad guys who side with Misquamacus are mostly my own invention of course, though the Pawnee did at one time practice a somewhat infamous human sacrifice ritual, and the Tonkawas did believe they were descended from wolves. Any misrepresentations are of course my own fault, but I make no apologies portraying skinwalkers in a negative light.  I don’t think any Navajo would take issue with it.

 The Rider’s likening his claustrophobia to the various mental afflictions of an old friend from his yeshiva in San Francisco named Aloysius Monkowitz is a shameless (or perhaps shameful) allusion to a probable ancestor of a certain neurotic modern day San Francisco detective with a similar name of whom I’m a fan.

Aloysius Monkowitz's famous descendant.

In Episode 11, The Mules of The Mazzikim

This is another one short on easter eggs, but there are a couple.

The scalp the Kwtsan Indian tries to sell the Rider on the bridge going into Yuma is the scalp of Joe (John Joel) Glanton, the leader of the band of vicious scalphunters hired by the Mexican government to collect bounties on Apache Indian scalps in the 1840’s and vividly portrayed in one my favorite novels, Cormac McCarthy’s Blood Meridian or, An Evening’s Redness In The West. Glanton and his gang took over the ferry over the Gila River at Yuma and regularly robbed and extorted crossers. They were later slaughtered by the Kwtsans on that spot.

The Rabbi Belinski the Rider mentions as having overseen his bar mitzvah was the aforementioned Tommy Lillard’s best friend, a rabbi who once undertook an amazing journey across the west to deliver a Torah scroll to San Francisco.

The lawman, Marshal Books, who arrests the Rider is the same ailing Books (or perhaps the brother of) who years later has it out on his birthday in an El Paso(or perhaps Carson City) saloon with several of his nemeses.

Happy birthday, Books

In Episode 12, The Man Called Other

Every aspect of Yuma Prison I could realistically portray I did, from the color of the cots to the processing of prisoners, to the rings in the floor and The Dark Cell. I visited what’s left of the place last year and the museum that sits on the site. Judge Berry was real, and the warden of the time was the real guy, Captain C.V. Meder (though not the acting warden, obviously).

In Episode Thirteen, The Fire King Triumphant

The title of The Fire King Triumphant is paraphrased from the headline of the Tombstone Epitaph (‘The Fire King Reaps A Harvest’) about the May 1882 fire that actually swept through the town of Tombstone. It really did start in the outhouse behind Tivoli’s as depicted. If you get yourself a street map from the time, I’ve done my best to keep the layout of the story true to the town.

W.W. Spates appeared in the last book, and I talked about the inspiration for him. His colleague, the linguistic expert Warren Rice is intended to be a younger version of the silver haired linguist who accompanied Harry Armitage in The Dunwich Horror.

 China Mary, the shrewd entrepreneur with ties to the Chinese Benevolence Society (or tong) in Tombstone, was a real lady, as was her Can Can Chop House. The word her man uses to describe the amorphous beasties in Lepsy’s barrels is hundun, which does mean dumpling, or wonton, but also refers to a legendary faceless, formless beast from Chinese folklore. The hundun is primordial chaos, a lump of flesh or thunder egg from which creatures of reality are born, or a featureless creature lacking the seven openings which mark humanity.

hundun

The villain of this story Lepsy himself is a reference to a ghost story from Dudleyville or Pinal, Arizona. Lepsy supposedly did hire Chinese workers and burn them as remuneration. When a sheriff and his posse went after them, Lepsy did the same for him. In the canyon where these crimes supposedly occurred, you can see scorch marks and smell burnt flesh.

Camillus Sydney and Mollie Fly did own the photography studio in Tombstone at 312 Fremont Street. On October 26 1881 the Gunfight at the OK Corral took place in the alley between his boarding house out back and the next house over, and it was inside his place that Ike Clanton and Sheriff Johnny Behan took cover.

Fly and Mollie both took photographs in their studio and abroad, Mollie being one of the most prominent female photographers of her time. Fly took the famous photos of the Billy Clanton and the McClaurys in their caskets. Fly also accompanied Crook to Canyon de Los Embudos in 1886 and took pictures of Geronimo in the field – the only photographs of Native Americans actively engaged in resisting the US government.

Mollie Fly took this picture of the CS Fly studio as it burned for the second time in 1912.

Finally, Moon Fugate and his peculiar pigmentation condition are a reference to the famous Blue Fugates a hill clan from Hazard, Kentucky, born with methemoglobinemia or met-H, a genetic blood disorder which results in blue skin.

The Blue Fugates of Kentucky

That’s about all this time out, kiddies. Whew!

Soon, news about the final chapter in the Merkabah Rider saga. It’ll be something special.

Don’t forget the giveaway.

Happy holidays, whichever holiday it may be, and good new year on you.

-Hasta pronto,

EME

An Excerpt From Merkabah Rider: Have Glyphs Will Travel

The Merkabah Rider series from Damnation Books follows the weird western adventures of a Hasidic gunslinger tracking the renegade teacher who betrayed his mystic Jewish order of astral travelers across the demon haunted Southwest of the 1880’s. Along the way the Rider (so called because he has hidden his true name to protect himself from his enemies) confronts half-demon outlaws, animated windmills,possessed gunmen, cultists, a bordello of antedeluvian succubi, Lovecraftian entities and various other dangers.

To evoke the old Zebra/Lancer/Bantam paperback collections of Robert E. Howard’s Solomon Kane  and Conan, the novels are presented as collections of standalone but sequential novellas. The series currently consists of two installments, Tales of a High Planes Drifter and The Mensch With No Name, both available in print and ebook formats on Amazon.com.

This year will see the release of Have Glyphs Will Travel, the third book in the series. Included are five novellas, detailing the Rider’s dealings with extra-dimensional angels, zombies, turncoat Riders, the wrath of the Demon Queen Lilith, Navajo skinwalkers and Native American shapeshifters, fire demons, a future instructor at a certain infamous Massachussetts institution of higher learning, and his greatest enemy.

Here’s an exclusive taste of what’s to come.

In this excerpt from one of the five novellas, The War Prophet, the powerful Native American mystic (and the Rider’s old acquaintance) Misquamacus has gathered an army of vengeful warriors from various castout tribes in an effort to unify them against the white man’s encroachment and depradations, all under the power of his dark magic.

Seeking to add the might of the Chiricahua Apache nation to his own, he has called their greatest leaders to a secret meeting high in the Sierra Madres, where he has made them a tempting offer. Turn away from their traditional religion and embrace the dark gods of Misquamacus and the white nation will be rubbed out….

*

Many of the frightened rurales were cursing, wide-eyed, shaking their heads. Many more were praying. Some were even kissing crosses that dangled from wooden bead rosaries around their necks, tucked into their dirty shirts so that the Lord did not see the terrible things they did, but so that He could be gotten to in a pinch if needed.

One Mexican among them, an old vaquero on his knees, was laughing. The Rider saw Mendez, the corporal. He stood bewildered, hands snatching at the empty holsters on his belt.

“They are for you, my brothers!” Misquamacus hollered above the din of the jabbering Mexicans, his voice powerful, resounding off the great rock walls. “Do with them what you want to do!”

And they did.

Almost as one body the Indians fell hungrily upon the cringing Mexicans like a great mouth closing. Some gamely fought back, but they were unarmed and outnumbered and quickly dragged down. Not a single bullet was wasted. Those with rifles came at the rurales with the heavy butts of their weapons, dashing skulls open at a swing. Stone axes whistled and sunk into pleading faces, and were drawn out to scatter brains and teeth and then fall again. Knives flashed, passing through scalps pulled so tight they came free in the bronze fists that held them with a single swipe and left glaring patches bereft of hair and flesh, the faces of their howling victims swiftly vanishing in a curtain of blood. Machetes swept off hands and fingers interlaced in desperate prayer.

Big Anger and his Pawnees straddled their victims and worked vicious arts with their knives, slashing away age, race, and sex, leaving behind only meat, indiscernible from a butcher’s wares. Organs leapt into the air like hats on New Year’s Eve.

The Rider/Piishi saw Slim Ghost and the skinwalkers walking among the dead and dying with curved knives, stooping to extract eyes, hearts, livers, fingers, genitals, even twisting free bloody bones, all of which they stuffed into their hide satchels, for later use in their foul practices, no doubt.

The Ishaks and the Tonkawas fell wholly upon their kills, burying their faces in the cavernous wounds they ripped open with their fingers. Piishi’s digestive system reacted with violent disgust at their display, and the Rider put the back of his hand to his lips and swallowed rising bile as Moon Cloud and Bloody Jaw wrestled over the bloody corpse of a fat rurale. One end of a rope of intestines twisted in-between each man’s teeth, the two of them snarling at each other like wild dogs. Indeed, they looked very much like animals. Their eyes grew wide and black , and they seemed hairier than before. Their ears elongated, sharpening in elfish grotesqueness, and their teeth were suddenly pointed and jagged, wolf-like in their gory mouths, extending in some kind of perverse, ravenous arousal. They were changing before their very eyes, something in their doing bringing out their true, inhuman natures, until Bloody Jaw was more wolf than the black hide and cowl trappings that hung from his bulky, misshapen shoulders. Moon Cloud matched his bestial visage.

The Rider looked through the massacre and found Goyaałé. The Bedonkohe war chief had made his way to the still laughing old caballero, and hoisted him to his feet. He raised his bloody knife to end him.

“Goyaałé!” The Rider called in as loud a voice as he could manage, which was considerable, given the acoustics of the canyon.

Goyaałé heard, and paused to look. A moment’s searching and he found the source.

“Look!” The Rider yelled, pointing to Moon Cloud and Bloody Jaw.

Goyaałé followed the indicatory gesture and his lip curled when he saw the two transformed chiefs. He let the old caballero fall and backed away. His eyes flitted all around the killing ground, and he saw the other Ishaks and Tonkawas changing into wolf-beasts.

The Rider watched as Goyaałé rushed through the crowd and found Lozen and Vittorio. He snatched the rifle from Lozen’s belt.

Before she could react, he levered it and fired it into the air.

It was a startling sound, and every man and woman stopped. Even the hairy beasts that had once been Indians raised their elongated doggish muzzles from the bellies of their kills and regarded him with feral eyes.

Lozen moved to take the rifle back, but Goyaałé said something and pointed.

Lozen and Vittorio saw.

All the Apache, their attention momentarily lifted from their bloody work to the two leaders, followed their shocked gazes and saw.

And as one, just as they had closed upon the Mexicans, they now recoiled and withdrew. Not a single Mexican was still alive.

“What is this, Mis-kwa-macus?” Vittorio yelled, pointing to the wolf creatures. “What are these?”

“They are the Rugarou Ishaks and the True Tonkawas. The last of their kind,” said Misquamacus. “Just as I told you.”

“They are monsters!”

The blood spattered Apache voiced their agreement with angry and frightened shouts.

“Not so! Not so!” Misquamacus yelled over them. “They are your brothers, ready to fight the white man at your side. Does Usen not teach you that the beasts are your kin? Do you not emulate the ferocity of the puma and the cunning of the beaver?”

One of the skinwalkers was nearby, and Goyaałé rushed at him without warning and cut his satchel from his shoulder with his knife, then shook out its grisly contents on the ground, where all could see them. The shriveled fist of a child rolled out among the fresh trophies.

“Usen does not teach us this!” he called.

“You have said that we must turn from Usen to defeat the white man,” Vittorio said. He pointed to the transformed Ishaks and Tonkawas. “Is this what happened to them when they turned from their god?”

“I offer you the death of the white man and the Mexicans for all time,” said Misquamacus. “I offer you a thousand nights like this one, with your enemies beneath your knives. With the power of my god, I can snatch the Great Father in Washington from his house and bring him to us. I can pull the rails out from under the iron snakes and fling them into the air. I can put my hand over the soldier forts that rise like ugly boils across all the land and send you in to cut their throats in their beds. I can turn the weapons of the enemy against them, make their ponies burst into flame between their legs, turn their bullets to raindrops. I can geld the white man and seal up his women. I can make it so your children will never know those people but from the stories told around your fires.”

“Who is your god that promises us these great victories, Mis-kwa-macus?” Goyaałé demanded. “It is time you told us.”

“Yes,” said Vittorio. “Who is your god that is so great but would bother with us?”

In answer, Misquamacus raised his arms for silence.

Slim Ghost and eight of the skinwalkers went to the base of the stone and knelt in a circle. They upended a series of small black pouches from their satchels into their hands and closed them into fists. Colored sand ran through their fingers, and with measured care they began to let the sand fall in ordered patterns on the bloody red earth. It was wondrous to see them work, ten men making a large vaguely circular picture, each acting independently, and yet their labors taking on a unified pattern, as if they possessed one mind, one vision. Silently, and without pause or consultation, they worked, forming mystic shapes and figures incomprehensible to outsiders and yet obviously inspired. As they worked, the colored sand drank up the spilled blood beneath, darkening in color where it fell.

The others watched them restlessly. The sun sank, and campfires had to be lit. All this was done in silence. No one dared to interrupt the skinwalkers’ work.

When it was at last finished, they rose as one and returned to the ranks of their people, and a mesmerizing sand painting lay before the stone on which Misquamacus had stood the whole time, observing. Red and blacks and blues dominated the work, and there were dancing feathered figures, moons, stars, and geometric patterns. To the Rider, only a few of these seemed somewhat familiar, some of them not unlike the diagrams found in the Book of Zylac. Yet all were distinctly Indian in their interpretation. Central to the painting was a strange faceless humanoid shape of black sand.

Misquamacus removed something from his satchel then, a polished mirror fragment, the size of a man’s head. He placed it in the center to the sand painting, over the center shape.

Then, before their eyes, that black shape began to grow oily and to boil like hot tar.

A lump rose from the center and took shape, congealing into a man-like form, carrying the fragment of mirror with it. Steam rose from the thing, as if it was hotter than the cool mountain air around it. When it had completed its unnatural birth, it stood nearly eight feet tall, like an earthen statue, black, with bumpy skin, like a flayed corpse, faceless but for the smooth mirror.

The Rider/Piishi recognized the same being they had seen in Misquamacus’ wickiup.

The Dark Man.

Black, foul smelling smoke, like the oily stench of a machine fueled by corpses, pouring from around the edges of the thing’s mirror mask, billowing unnaturally around the figure, never rising, cloaking it in a greasy fog.

The Ishaks and Tonkawas fell to all fours and pressed their jaws to the earth like submitting hounds. They sent up a bone chilling baying and howling din, so terrible that the Apaches clamped their hands over their ears to hear it. The Pawnees put their foreheads to the earth, and even the skinwalkers knelt and bowed their heads. The Apaches moved away, frightened of the thing.

Misquamacus turned and went to his knees, arms still above his head in adoration.

“Behold Tezcatlipoca! The Dark Wind. We are his slaves. Nyarlathotep!”

Merkabah Rider 3: Have Glyphs Will Travel

Pick up the book here –

http://www.amazon.com/Merkabah-Rider-Have-Glyphs-Travel/dp/1615725539/ref=sr_1_sc_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1337669430&sr=8-1-spell

One Who Yawns

Having nearly reached the mid-point on the next installment in my Merkabah Rider series Have Glyphs Will Travel, I decided to take some time out to talk a little about one of the characters appearing in the second (and as yet unnamed) episode.

A lot happens in this book, as the series enters the home stretch. Key details of the Hour of Incursion plot will be revealed, the succubus Nehema will return, and the Rider’ s nemesis Adon will finally make an appearance.

Historical characters have appeared in Merkabah Rider before. ‘Mysterious’ Dave Mather and John ‘Doc’ Holiday featured prominently in The Mensch With No Name, as well as members of Las Vegas, New Mexico’s infamous Dodge City Gang. Tales of a High Planes Drifter had Josephine ‘Sadie’ Marcus, the future wife of Wyatt Earp, and her shiftless beau and soon-to-be Cochise County Sheriff, Johnny Behan.

With Have Glyphs Will Travel I decided to visit another historical persona, one whom I’ve admired for a good deal of my life.

Born Goyaałé in Arizona Territory in 1829 to the Bedonkohe band of the Apache (which is actually a misnomer, as are most popularly known Indian tribal names. Names like Sioux and Apache are usually attributed by adversarial tribes allied with European/Spanish/Mexican/American people, and more often than not – as in the case of ‘Sioux’ translate into ‘enemy.’ The origin of the term ‘Apache’ is lost to history, first being recorded in 1598), he lost took a wife at 17 and fathered three children, raising them in the traditions of his people, which included belief in one God, Usen.

The Apaches had been fighting off European incursion for decades by this time. Apacheria covered areas of southeastern Arizona, northern Mexico, New Mexico, western Texas, and southeastern Utah, southern Colorado, and parts of Oklahoma. Problems with Spanish colonists was inevitable, but sporadic, until shortly after Mexican Independence when the government began posting rewards for Apache scalps (a practice portrayed brilliantly in Cormac McCarthy’s apocalyptic novel Blood Meridian or, An Evening’s Redness In The West).  When the chief of the Mimbreno Apaches was killed for bounty money, this touched off a series of aggressive retaliatory raids by the succeeding chief, Mangas Coloradas.

Then in 1846 war broke out between Mexico and the U.S.  Having fostered a growing hatred for their Mexican neighbors in the preceding decade of brutality and mutual bloodshed, most Apache bands allowed free passage of American troops through their lands. When the war ended, a new peace treaty between the Apache and the Americans was signed, but the Mexicans hated the Apache more than ever.

At the age of 29, Goyaałé and the men of his village traveled to the Mexican town of Janos to trade, leaving a few warriors to guard the women and children. While they were away, 400 Mexican troops under the command of Colonel José María Carrasco attacked. Some women escaped and were found by the returning warriors, who resolved to hide until nightfall and then sneak into the silent village.  In the dark, Goyaałé  found his elderly mother, wife, and all three children dead.

“I stood until all had passed, hardly knowing what I would do. I had no weapon, nor did I hardly wish to fight, neither did I contemplate recovering the bodies of my loved ones, for that was forbidden. I did not pray, nor did I resolve to do anything in particular, for I had no purpose left. I finally followed the tribe silently, keeping just within hearing distance of the soft noise of the feet of the retreating Apaches….None had lost as I had, for I had lost all.”

A year later, Goyaałé had joined the ranks of Mangas Coloradas and successfully broached an alliance with the Chiricahua under Cochise and the Nedni under Juh. He guided this army of Apache into Mexico. Coming upon the town of Arizpe, which had been founded by the Jesuit missionary Jeronimo de Canal, Goyaałé recognized the same cavalry that had been involved in the massacre of his village and asked to lead the attack.

The ensuing battle lasted two hours, and ended with Goyaałé  killing the last two Mexican combatants himself, one with the man’s own sabre. It is said that it was at this fight that Goyaałé earned the name he was forever after known by among non-Apaches. Some accounts say that the Mexican soldiers prayed to St. Jerome to deliver them, but as Jerome is the patron saint of librarians and scholars, I’m sure it probably has something more to do with the Jesuit founder of the town.

Whatever the reason, Goyaałé  became Geronimo. 

In the years that followed, Vittorio and Mangas Coloradas both fell in battle with the Mexicans or the Americans. In 1886, after evading thousands of Mexican and U.S. troops for over a year, Geronimo finally surrendered to white authority, the last of the Apache to do so.

Legends about Geronimo abound. He was never a proper chief, but it was said he had the power to see the future and to stop bullets, and time itself. After being chased up into the Robledo (some accounts say Superstition) Mountains by U.S. soldiers, he and his band took shelter in a certain cave and never emerged. The soldiers finally gave up. Of course Geronimo popped up again somewhere else.

I don’t know what exactly resonates with me and the story of Geronimo. I’m not the least bit Indian. I guess I like an underdog, and to read about tenacious individuals. I think it’s people like Geronimo that form the concept of the American individual, even fighting the American government as he did (and as Americans have done and must still sometimes do). I believe Geronimo inspires the legacy of resistance to tyranny upon which the American ideal was founded.

So what happened to Geronimo?

Well, after a long life on three different reservations, he died in Oklahoma in 1909, far away from Apacheria. The legends didn’t stop there of course. In a fittingly ironic twist, rumors still persist today that Prescott Bush of the infamous Bush clan stole Geronimo’s skull while serving as an Army volunteer at Ft. Sill and spirited it to the Yale headquarters of the Skull and Bones society, assembly line of elitist oligarchs since 1839 . This is generally refuted as Geronimo’s grave was unmarked at the time.

Several movies were made about him, the best probably being Geronimo: An American Legend with Wes Studi in the title role.

Notice the actor playing Geronimo doesn't get top billing!

Chuck ‘The Rifleman’ Connors played him too. I like Chuck Connors.

Chuck Connors as Geronimo

John Wayne in 'The Conqueror'

I like John Wayne. John Wayne played Genghis Khan once…’nuff said.

Still no top billing for the actor playing the titular character....

Geronimo’s other legacy is the famous World War II paratrooper call mentioned above, which was first enacted by Georgian Private Aubrey Eberhardt of the fledgling Parachute Test Platoon at Ft. Benning.  The day before his first jump out of an airplane, Aubrey and some friends watched a 1939 Paramount movie starring the imposing Victor ‘Chief Thundercloud’ Daniels (a Cherokee actor who originated the role of Tonto in the early Lone Ranger serials) in the titular role of Geronimo. Chided about his nervousness later by his fellows, Eberhardt promised that to prove he could sustain his courage while plummeting thousands of feet, tomorrow he would call out to them a certain phrase as he jumped, to let them know he hadn’t lost his nerve.

The distinctive word he chose was ‘Geronimo.’

In the months to come, as the number of trainees grew into five full blown Airborne Divisions, the paratroopers carried the battle cry to the skies over Europe. The first division to be instated, the 501st Parachute Infantry Batallion, chose the name as their motto and insignia. The 50th PIR also adapted the name, and Geronimo’s warrior legacy (whether the soldiers were aware of it or not) landed at D-Day with the men of the 101st Airborne, who wore war paint and shaved their heads into mohawks (and still do).

Colonel Byron Page of the 11th Airborne wrote the classic paratrooper cadence Down From Heaven, which goes –

 
 
 Down from Heaven comes Eleven
and there’s Hell to pay below
shout “GERONIMO” “GERONIMO”.
It’s a gory road to glory
but we’re ready here we go
shout “GERONIMO” “GERONIMO”.
Hit the silk and check your canopy
and take a look around
The air is full of troopers
set for battle on the ground
killed on Leyte and Luzon
shout “GERONIMO” “GERONIMO”.
 

 

The ‘eleven’ refers to the number of jumpers in a plane (which coincidentally brings us back to Matt Smith, the 11th incarnation of Doctor Who, who yells Geronimo in his debut episode, The Eleventh Hour) .

Nifty, huh?

And that’s about all I have to say about Geronimo, the man and the phrase.

But how the hell does Geronimo fit into Merkabah Rider anyway?

1880 is dawning and The Great Old Ones are coming. 

A war to clear their path is being fought in the Southwest and the Outer Gods are fielding their Native American general, Misquamacus (of The Lurker On The Threshold and The Manitou), who drifts into the San Carlos Reservation preaching victory over the invading whites.  The greatest guerilla force extant is the Apache. Vittorio, Juh, and Nana are at the height of their powers, and Misquamacus calls a meeting at one of the great hidden strongholds deep within the Sierra Madres. All the Indian must do to defeat the white man and the Mexican forever is to turn from the veneration of Usen and fight for the Great Old Ones.

And among the gathered warriors is a broad, silent man with hatred in his ears, but the teachings of his murdered mother in his heart. A man who wrote;

“When a child my mother taught me the legends of our people; taught me of the sun and sky, the moon and stars, the clouds and storms. She also taught me to kneel and pray to Usen for strength, health, wisdom, and protection. We never prayed against any person, but if we had aught against any individual we ourselves took vengeance. We were taught that Usen does not care for the petty quarrels of men….while I live, I want to live well.”