Inquiring Minds (Pilatus Porter) – Mark of the Spider

Pilatus Porter.

Nope. Not the prefect of Judea from the New Testament.

It’s an airplane. One I’ve actually flown in, and one that nature photographer Sebastian Arnett ventures forth in my new book, The Mark of the Spider.

I flew in the Porter back during the Viet-Nam War. Back then, it was a favorite short takeoff and landing (STOL) aircraft for the CIA throughout Indochina — as was the snub-nosed Helio Courier.

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Pilatus Porter in Laos, ca. 1970. Photo: Dr. B.R. Lang, Wikimedia Commons.

In Laos, where I spent most of my time in Southeast Asia, the Porter’s missions included “paradropping supplies to troops, passenger transport, psy ops, reconnaissance, prisoner conveyance, airborne radio relay, and other intelligence operations.”

The Porter has a wide wingspan compared to the length of its fuselage (52 feet vs. 36 feet), a distinctive long nose, and a powerful reversible engine that allowed it to land in three airplane lengths (about 110 feet), or two-thirds of the width of a football field. Takeoff required slightly more.

It was quite uncomfortable to fly in as a back seat passenger, quite exciting and far too much like flying in nothing at all, as in there’s nothing under me — or free fall.

And, as Sebastian discovered in The Mark of the Spider, the plane could glide long distances without its engine on.


You can read all about Sebastian’s adventures in trade press print and ebook formats, only from Amazon.

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Antioch Magazine Spotlights My Laos Memoir

The Antioch College Alumni Magazine just came out with a very nice write-up about my memoir, HOTEL CONSTELLATION: Notes from America’s Secret War in Laos.

The one-page spread includes three photos of mine and that picture of me interviewing Jane Fonda waaaaay back in 1972.

About 40,000 Antioch alumni, including this Class of ’73 grad, received copies of the four-color 58-page magazine. It’s part of the effort to rebuild the mother campus in Yellow Springs, Ohio, after the school had to shut down for lack of funding. (Yeah, colleges do close.)

I’m grateful to writer Michelle Marie Wallace, who listened to me ramble about my experiences, and to Carol Krumbach, who commissioned the piece.

Back to the Future Fiction

I just don’t know.

This retire-from-the-daily-grind-of-earning-a-living thing and spend more time writing just isn’t working out as I envisioned.

I’m busier now than when I worked for a living. Grandkids living a few minutes away and visiting at least weekly. Volunteering at the food bank. Gardening. Photography. Helping keep up the house and at the same time staying out of the way. Reading.

Where’s all the writing time?

Actually, I AM writing, but as I learned with HOTEL CONSTELLATION, my Viet-Nam era memoir, there’s writing and doing all the other things a writer does.

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My book project filing system isn’t pretty, but it works for me.

So here’s the status update:

  • HOTEL CONSTELLATION: Notes from America’s Secret War in Laos — My college alumni association commissioned an article for its magazine, and I had a lovely chat with the young writer assigned to it. Not certain when it will be out. Will be attending a reunion of NGO Viet-Nam volunteers in the fall and am scheduled to appear on the “memoirs” panel.
  • The Mark of the Spider: A Black Orchid Chronicle — Been working on this forever and a day. My writers group assessed the ending last night and found it in need of another rewrite. I still expect to finish it in time to publish in early fall, certainly in time for the holiday book buying season. Worked the last several days on the publication plan and pitch materials; I’ll finish that this week and move back to the rewrite next week. I’ll have a lot more on this in the coming weeks.
  • Flight of the Spider: A Black Orchid Chronicle — I’ve been champing at the bit for months now to get to book two in the Black Orchid series.
  • She Asked for Green Salad — I jot notes from time to time for this family memoir, and it has its own three-ring binder (see photo above) so I must be serious about it.
  • Untitled Short Stories — I’ve got a short piece about a hospital messenger with too many corpses on his hands, but I need to work on the ending. I have another storty about an alien encounter in an elevator, but this, too, deserves a better ending.

And that is the end of this update. (See. I have real trouble with endings. Separation anxiety? I don’t know.)