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Jose Quintero, the Confederate States of America Consul to Mexico December 12 2019

Jose Agustin Quintero was a Cuban revolutionary who fled a death sentence and escaped from the Spanish, coming to America in the 1850’s. He went to Harvard, got a law degree, was a poet, translator, and philosopher, becoming friends with Henry Wadsworth Longfellow.

Quintero crossed paths with Jefferson Davis in social circles before the Civil War, and Davis was a great admirer of Longfellow, despite that poet’s abolitionist leanings – but the Longfellow connection was enough to start a friendship between Davis and Quintero. Enough so that when war broke out, Quintero enlisted in the Confederacy, first as a soldier in the Quitman Rifle Brigade.

But Jefferson Davis wanted greater things for Quintero – so he sent him to Matamoros under the guise of being a Diplomatic Consul, while his main duties consisted of organizing the cotton smuggling and gun-running trade for the South.

It was often said, though, that if the South had won, he might well have fought to free the slaves – both out of sympathy with Longfellow’s abolitionism, and out of his own core revolutionary fervor. 

In my novel, Matamoros, Quintero is urbane, wily, and a complex sparring partner for the book’s hero, Clay Wilkes – who is up to the task.

Here are the lyrics to the song I wrote about Quintero for the Matamoros companion CD. I decided to make it a kind of revolutionary anthem – in the musical idiom of mariachi and Son Cubano, but in 6/4 time, to give it a kind of rushing, forward movement; like the man himself.

 El Guerrero Quintero

Jose Quintero, the Cuban guerrero

Fled the noose in Havana, with fire in his marrow

He pledged his long life to life-long revolution,

And sailed to the States to avoid prosecution.


He studied and plotted to drive cruel Spain                               

From his sweet homeland island crushed under their reign,(when he met) 

Jefferson Davis, who was scheming secession, (They were)                        

Kindred souls battling colonial oppression.                                                  


And we’ll cry, ay ay ay ay ay,

Cast off the yoke that does lie

On the backs of the people, who must live free or die ay ay ay ay ay


Quintero joined the Southern Rebellion                                

‘gainst the Yankee invaders, to fling ‘em to hell, ya know    

Jeff Davis sent him down to Matamoros,                             

Where he shipped Rebel cotton and fired up the chorus… 


Of nations to honor the sovereign right                                 

Of Confederate States in their terrible plight,                        

So he silver-tongued most of the world’s diplomats, (who)  

Forsook the Reb Cause like the sniveling rats (they were)  


A friend asked Quintero – and what if the South won?        

Would you help them spread slav’ry from here to the ocean?

But Quintero cried “Never!” His task – liberation.                   

He’d fight to free slaves in the new Southern nation.             


Viva la libertad, Jose Quintero,                                                  

Your heart is so wild, es mucho fiero,                                        

Freedom for all, libertad para todos,                                           

Death to the tyrants, muerte a los tiranos.                                 


The CD is available soon after 12/20/2019 on Amazon, CDBaby, and all the usual streaming sites.

The art of Matamoros December 10 2019

The extraordinary illustrator, Bart Bus, did five beautiful illustrations for me to choose from for the cover art on the novel and the CD. Here are two of them, depicting a sequence deep in the book - the Red River Campaign, where the Union Army was drawn into an ambush.

Red River Campaign - before the battle


Red River Campaign - in the heat of battle

Bart's work also adorns the covers of the novel and the CD. I'll post more here later. You can see the range of his remarkable talent at 

Matamoros December 07 2019

My new novel, Matamoros, is scheduled for release on December 20, 2019. My first effort at self-publishing, which is scary, exciting and anxiety-generating. It's a Civil War novel set on the Rio Grande, a setting very few people know about. Actually has almost more of an Old West feeling than Civil War. But I researched it deeply to ground the history, so the adventure and romance can take off. Will talk lots more about the process of writing it in posts to come, once the book is out.

Also coming out with a CD full of songs about the characters in the novel in the next few weeks. Links will show up on my home page soon.

Here's the CD cover. More coming, soon.

After The Wedding September 22 2014

My daughter's wedding was here at the house 3 weeks ago and I'm just recovering. 120 guests, 17 of whom stayed with us for 5 days, like one long, big slumber party. It was a wonderful, emotional experience, and now I'm wondering what's next. My novel, Incarnate, just came out, that was exciting too - but now there are so many projects on the burners I don't know what to do first. Finish the next novel, shoot a web series based on the Man Walks Into a Bar CD, play a few gigs around town. I'm producing a play for a new theater group in town, but that doesn't run until January. Trying to relax a little too - that's my biggest challenge. Life is good, though. No, it's great, and I'm so grateful. So thank you all.

New Developments July 30 2014

A big nod of thanks to Tony Rodono, who designed and developed my new website, which is awesome and looks way above my pay grade.

Also, within the next couple months I have two novels coming out. The first, Timefall, is the third and final volume of my sci-fi fantasy adventure (After World Enough and Time, and Time's Dark Laughter). It's being re-released since its first publication back in the day, with new material added.

The second novel, Incarnate, is a brand new reincarnation thriller. Both books are being published by Fastpencil/Premiere Press, and will be available on their site as well as Amazon, Barnes and Noble, etc.

And lastly, I have a new CD coming out, The 12th Elf - children's songs that adults can enjoy, mostly in the Americana genre. You'll be able to find that on iTunes, Amazon, CDBaby, SoundCloud and elsewhere.

If anybody has any questions about my song or book writing process, I'll try to answer.

My Daughter's Wedding July 30 2014

Father of the bride… welcome to the world of wedding planning and payment. My daughter, Laura, is getting married next month to Morgan, a terrific guy. Laura's first instinct was to elope, which she was talked out of by a variety of family members, and yes, I was one of them. We're doing the whole ceremony and party at our house, though - between deck repair, repainting, catering, hosting multiple houseguests, and an invasion of Argentinian ants, the process has been, like the third act of any great adventure, both surprising and inevitable.

But at some point once you've committed to something like this in your life, you just have to say you're All In, damn the torpedoes. I mean, finally, it's in the service of celebrating my dear daughter's wedding. And if I weren't focused on all the logistics, I'd just be obsessing about the toast I have to give. So time to have a beer and quit whining. By the way, about that toast - if anybody has any good ideas...

Next month: Tales of the Wedding.

Hello World July 30 2014

So, here’s my first stab at my new blog… exciting but somewhat bewildering. Is this meant to be a summary of life activities? A confessional? A rant? My thoughts on writing, politics, dinosaurs?

It seems my life is always in transition. I am trying to feel the pull of the muse: who inside my brain wants my attention most? The music, the word, the moving image? Or maybe it’s not my brain. Maybe heart, or spleen. Pituitary?

Anyway, more thoughts and news will be coming sooner than later.

MWIAB, Liner Notes June 08 2012

Liner Notes for Man Walks Into a Bar

The promise of melancholy.
Longhaul Brown is like Ishmael arriving on the Pequod, and the poor moke just doesn’t know they’re going down. In post I had to fix the line “And a juke from 1964,” because I hadn’t glottaled the K hard enough and it sounded like “And a Jew from 1964.” It took David West to say, “If the Jew fits, wear it.”
Dolores is the emotional core of this whole tale. Trapped in a life she can’t see her way out of, she takes a bold move and escapes. Who doesn’t want that? She’s also emblematic of a recurring theme here: the death of love, and its rebirth. Driven, here, by Tom Lackner’s cholinergic pulsing drums. Watch the YouTube video to see Desert Rose, the only character without her own song.
Gabe Witcher’s haunting fiddle is the most intimate emotional expression of the state of Danny’s mind I could imagine. And the Kate Wallace choir under “benediction” sounds to me like all the angels in Doubters’ Heaven looking down on him.
I love these guys. They really exist. Notable in this track are Neal Graffy’s brilliant homage to the guitar solo in “Hotel California,” here played on the kazoo, and David West’s subtle yet quintessential banjo. Of course David West is all over these tracks like a one-man band. I once told David he was the apotheosis of the consummate accompanist, and he said, “I guess those apotheosis pills must finally be workin’.” Clearly he overdosed.
Clearly all of these characters are pieces of me, in some sense – but this song is the most psychologically autobiographical. This guy – Old Drunk Tom – is talking about his lost glory days in Hollywood, and how he’s happier now being the old drunk in this local bar. If I’d ever become an alcoholic, this would have been my anthem. Looking back on his life, not only does he not ask forgiveness of those he’s transgressed (“Bedamn to Step 8,” flouting the 12 Step model), but he forgives them all, he’s content with his lot – and yet he’d do it again if that ship ever stopped in his port.
Lots of unrequited love going on in the bar tonight, and this hapless fella sets the bar. But patience is sometimes rewarded. In the novella, his name is Waley, and Light Blue is his nickname for the girl he loves, Madison, the Invisible Blue Girl.
My stab at a Country idiom love song, and I’m just the idiom to do it. When in the course, we hold these truths, the right to bear arms, declare my independence, liberty, freedom, try the soul, pursuit of happiness, all created equal – it’s practically a constitutional opera, with just a hint of bible (“Forty nights since you left me,” as in the Flood, only here it’s a flood of tears), and a dash of Hollywood (“A scar is born”) – this is my celebration of an American broken heart, underscored by Matt Rollings’ poignant piano solo, and John McFee’s heartbreaking steel. The character’s name is Rick in the novella.
Pretty women are often dismissed as having it too easy; even having it all. But because they’re given so much, they have an especially difficult challenge figuring out who they really are, creating themselves from the inside out, and being seen for who they really are. Brian Mann’s accordion perfectly evokes the poignancy of that dilemma. Bob Nichols’s drums bring just the right sort of Band, sort of Grateful Dead feel to it, too. Later in this song I like the way the advice Dolores gave her in the bathroom impacts both Dolores’s decision, that we heard about earlier, and this girl’s decision – that we’ll learn about later, when the bar blazes. Madison is her name.
Named Dinah. Special bartenders are like special priests of the secular world. Priestess, in this case, and “her soul’s a thousand candles.” Just goes to show, even when you’re on top of your game, life can change in a hurry. Like the Bartender here, we’re all just about two songs away from catastrophe.
This guy’s been a biker, fireman, welder, singer, thief, teamster, stage actor, glass blower, blacksmith, boxer, bagpiper, bouncer… and all he wants is a little love. Great harp from Tom Ball here, and in the bluesier Great Trains, next up.
Anonymous Joe brings Hell to the bar, and Wrongside Bob says, “Bring it.” Old Drunk Tom’s “shirt all aflame,” was inspired by the unsettling short poem, “Charles On Fire,” by James Merrill. Wrongside understands, at the end, that love can come in many forms, and going home is one of them.
Longhaul Brown is me. His Ishmaelian verses wrap up all these intertwined stories – from his work in “the riggings” to his plagiarized  line, “I only am escaped alone to tell thee,” taken from Melville’s Moby Dick, which took it from the Book of Job. But the choruses of this track are meant to be a metaphor for the creative process, the “firestorm” in the belly that erupts in an act of creation, leaving the artist in ashes, or wandering in the desert of his soul, wondering bleakly if it will ever happen again. That’s pretty much how I feel after every project, like it’s this intense explosion of energy, and then I’m done and I feel kind of empty, and wonder if lightning will ever strike again, or if, instead, I’ll never write another word because I nothing more to say. On a less bombastic note, if it wasn’t clear, the Clampers in this track, whose vow has always been to care for widows, rebuild the bar because they understand, as the Invisible Blue Girl did, that the Bartender was “wed to this bar,” therefore she’s now a widow. Also, unrelated, thanks to Laura Kahn for the line, “No remains but the bones.”
Matt Rollings’s introspective reprise of “My Declaration of Independence From You” embodies the recurring theme here. Love – like Creation – turns melancholy, burns out, dies… but can find rebirth.