josephpmartino

This site is where I blog about my writing activities

I think my new novel is finally ready to again submit to my editor. I’ve learned a lot from having to rework it. A novel is a lot different from writing a short story.

A Halloween Story

I wrote this story as an entry for a contest for “political horror.” Suffice it to say it didn’t win. Probably not horrible enough. However, I had fun writing it. I hope you enjoy it. And yes, I did spend nearly 20 years as a Precinct Committeeman. However, I never had a precinct like this one.

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A HALLOWE’EN CAMPAIGN

This is the part I hate. Knocking on doors.

“Good evening, sir/madam. I’m your precinct committeeman. Please vote for my Party’s candidates. Here’s some campaign literature.”

Sometimes they slam the door. Sometimes they say they support the other Party. Sometimes they take your literature, but you know they’ll trash-can it when you leave.

But occasionally someone really wants information about our candidates. Then it’s worthwhile.

You have to go in the evening, ‘cause that’s when people are home. You have to go about a week before Election Day. Too early and they forget; too late and they’ve already made up their minds.

So tonight’s Hallowe’en and I’m knocking on doors in my precinct. The moon is full, but it’s hard to tell because this street is well lit: streetlights, porch lights, driveway lights. A nice neighborhood.

The trick-or-treat kids are out. I’ve passed several clusters of them. Mostly grade school age, accompanied by adults. Some wear costumes from the latest superhero movie, but most are the traditional witches, ghosts, and monsters. One boy had a skeleton costume, the bones glowing in the dark.

Just ahead there’s another group. I let them go to the house, while I wait on the sidewalk. I chat up the adults about my Party’s candidates.

After the kids move on, I knock on the door.

“You’re kinda’ old for trick or treat, ain’tcha?”

I give my pitch. He asks about our candidate for Sheriff, and takes my literature. I move on.

Next house, no lights. No answer. I pull a plastic bag out of my pack, stuff the literature in it, and hang it on the doorknob. That’s the way it goes the rest of the street. Most people home. Most are polite. I leave a few door-hangers. Like I said, a nice neighborhood.

I reach the end of the street and look back. The kids have covered this street and moved on. I have one more street to cover.

My precinct was re-jiggered this year. Some court decision about electoral districts being “contiguous and compact.” I lost one of my streets, where there were a lot of nice homes, and got this one. We’re short-handed on the Central Committee. I don’t think we ever had a precinct committeeman for this street before. Hope I can scare up some votes.

It’s dark. Few streetlights. Even the full moon doesn’t help. Most houses are dark. Well, I’ve got lots of door-hangers. Lots of activity in the street. Evidently trick-or-treaters. Looks like ghosts, witches, monsters. Big for kids, though.

There’s a cemetery in the first block. It makes the street darker, but it means fewer houses to stop at. As I pass the cemetery I see lights flickering inside. Sure an unusual hour for people to be putting flowers on graves.

Someone comes out the cemetery entrance. His costume is ragged, and his face looks like he’s wearing all-white makeup. But obviously not a kid. I offer him some literature.

In a sepulchral voice he says, “Isn’t voting from the graveyard illegal?”

A wise guy. I reply, “If you can walk into the polls, you can vote.”

I continue, putting door-hangers on every house.

A bat flickers across the moon. I hear several others. Something that looks like a wolf slinks down the other side of the street. I pass several of the ghosts and monsters milling around in the street. All grownups, no kids. I offer them literature. They all avoid me. I begin to feel creepy.

Finally I reach the end of the street, where it meets the river. I turn to go back up the other side.

Suddenly all those figures stop milling around. They’re blocking the street. They’re moving toward me. I see one wearing a skeleton costume. Then I see a light between his ribs. That’s no costume. He is a skeleton. And the others are ghosts and monsters.

They’re closing in. I look behind me. Nothing but the river. I’m trapped.

A bat hovers in front of me. Suddenly it turns into a figure from a Dracula movie. I jab my arms forward and make a cross with my fingers.

He chuckles. “Oy vey, have you got the wrong vampire.”

He grabs for me. I turn to run for the river. Suddenly that wolf is there, growling at him. The vampire shrieks,  “Keep that werewolf away from me.” He spreads his cape and flies away.

Beyond the line of creatures I see the trick-or-treat kids coming down the street, unsuccessfully knocking on doors, the adults staying in the street and holding flashlights.

“Go back!” I shout. “Go back!”

The creatures turn towards the kids. They move surprisingly fast. The werewolf and I can’t keep up. The creatures reach one cluster of kids, who stand rooted and scream. The creatures give them a wide berth and move on.

The adults call the kids back. The men put themselves between the kids and the creatures. They back up slowly.

The werewolf and I catch up. I knock the skeleton clattering and push through.

“Don’t follow the kids,” I shout. “Lead them.”

The creatures quit chasing the trick-or-treaters and turn on me. I back up slowly. The werewolf is beside me, snarling. The creatures grab at me, but he keeps them at bay. Finally we pass the cemetery. The creatures give up. I turn toward the werewolf, but he’s gone. Just a shadow slinking down the street.

One of the men says, “You sure took a risk for all of us. Why’d you want us leading the kids instead of standing with you?”

“I realized something. Those creatures weren’t after the kids. They were after you. The kids’ innocence shielded them. You needed to be behind that shield. I had the werewolf protecting me.”

They all left as fast as they could. I still had a lot of campaign literature, but there was no way I was going back down that street to hang it on doors.

Replay

Grimwood, Ken, Replay, ISBN 978-0-68-816112-5.

This is an old book, not a new one. It was originally published in 1988. It was a selection of both the Literary Guild and the Doubleday Book Club. It also received numerous other awards. I just found out about it, hence this review.

Have you ever thought about what it would be like to live your life over, but with your memories of the first time? To avoid the mistakes you made the first time? To warn people of disasters and catastrophes? It sounds like a good idea, doesn’t it? This book dumps cold water on the  idea.

The author uses a common Science Fiction theme: the person who returns to their younger self, but with their memories intact. However, he plays several variations on that theme. In this story, the event that sends him back is his death from a heart attack, and he ends up back in his college freshman self.

The first variation is the one everyone thinks of: the man who knows the future can get rich. And Jeff, the main character, does just that. By betting on the right sporting events, then by investing his money in the right stocks, he becomes a multimillionaire. Despite that, his life is empty. He is unsuccessful in preventing the Kennedy assassination. He attempts to repeat the meeting he had with the woman he married the first time around. He botches the meeting and loses her. He eventually marries a woman who comes from a rich family, who went to the “right” schools,  and was turned into a cookie-cutter replicate of all the other products of t those schools: superficial and interchangeable. They have a daughter who is his pride and joy. Then he has another heart attack and again finds  himself back in his college freshman self, with his fortune and his daughter gone as though they never existed

I won’t run through all the other variations the author plays, but they do raise a lot of questions. Would you want to repeat your college years, with all that studying and taking exams and so on? The mistakes you made “the first time” helped form your character. If you avoid them, does that change you?  What happens if the government finds out that you know the future? Or the Mafia?  Would the Universe even let you change some major event like the Kennedy assassination? Lots of things to think about here.

I recommend the book. It’s well written, and I enjoyed it. I wish I’d read it when it first came out, but better late than never. If you missed it “the fist time,” you have a chance to correct your mistake. Read it now.

A Fighting Chance: The Moral Use of Nuclear Weapons

I wrote this book  at the height of the Cold War. It was a time when too many people were ready to surrender to the Soviet Union because of their horror of nuclear devastation. It was thought that the only possible targets for nuclear weapons were cities with their civilian populations, and the only real use for nuclear weapons was to deter the Soviet Union from using such weapons against our cities, by threatening theirs. And if we couldn’t deter the Soviets, our only hope was some form of what was then called “Finlandization,” after the way Finland in effect became a Soviet satellite nation even though it wasn’t occupied by Soviet forces. “Mutual Assured Destruction” was the official strategy of the United States (if you can call that a strategy). Our war plans were to make an attack on the Soviet Union as horrible as possible. I thought this was completely wrong. As I put it at the time, if deterrence fails, we don’t want to be programmed for holocaust.

In writing the book, I applied Just War Doctrine (I insist it’s a doctrine; a teaching; not a “theory”) to the use of nuclear weapons in war. That is, in actual fighting, not just in deterring a nuclear-armed enemy. If we actually had to use nuclear weapons, could we use them in ways that supported a rational military policy and strategy, rather than Armageddon? I argued that the Just War Doctrine showed a way to achieve this. In summary, I argued for targeting nuclear weapons only at military targets, making the weapons accurate enough that they didn’t hit other things, and sizing them to minimize unintended damage outside the target. All of this was technically feasible, but we had to make up our minds to do it, instead of pretending that if we made the threat horrible enough, we’d never be faced with the need to carry it out, and therefore didn’t have to think about it.

With the collapse of the Soviet Union, and the disintegration of Russian armed forces, concern about nuclear weapons vanished. We were allegedly the world’s only Superpower. We were faced with terrorism, “asymmetric warfare,” and other threats for which nuclear weapons didn’t seem to be a proper counter. The end result was not just the downgrading of our nuclear-capable forces and the refusal to design new weapons, it was a complete abdication of any thought of how those weapons should be used.

Unfortunately, history didn’t stop. We are now faced with a revived Russia and a growing China, both armed with nuclear weapons. In addition, we will soon face a nuclear-armed Iran. Beyond those, Pakistan, India and North Korea are also armed with nuclear weapons. So are Britain and France, although I don’t consider them to be potential threats. South Korea, Taiwan and Japan all have the technical capability to develop nuclear weapons. In the face of China’s growing power, it’s entirely possible they may turn that capability into reality. In short, while we were taking a nuclear holiday from history, the world actually became more dangerous.

From the standpoint of nuclear weapons, the world is no longer bipolar. It is  multipolar. So, even though this book focused on the Soviet threat, the Just War analysis is still valid. In the next few years, we may need to think about how to use nuclear weapons within moral limits, even more than we needed to do during the Cold War.

I have a few copies left. I’m making them available through Amazon. If there’s enough demand, I’ll find some way to get more.

The Justice Cooperative

It may be too strong a statement to say that the “justice” system in the US is broken. If not broken, though, it’s badly bent.

The Bill of Rights guarantees a jury trial to a defendant. Why would such a “right” be considered important by the writers of the Constitution? The jury represents the people. Everyone else in the courtroom works for the government: judge, prosecutor, bailiff. The role of the jury is two-fold: to see that an overzealous prosecutor doesn’t railroad an innocent party, and to see that a dangerous criminal isn’t released on the public through a sweetheart deal between prosecution and defense.

How well is that working? Over 90% of all criminal cases result, not in a jury trial, but in a plea bargain. The criminal is encouraged to plead guilty to some lesser crime, and get a lesser sentence. And when the judge asks  the defendant if he was offered anything to get him to plead guilty, both the defendant and the prosecutor commit perjury by denying it.

Well, it’s said that it’s better to let 10 guilty go free than convict an innocent person. Agreed. But how are the innocent people doing?

There have been many cases in the past few years of people who had been convicted of crimes, and who had served a decade or more in prison, being found innocent, either by DNA analysis, by the confession of the real criminal, or some other means. For instance, see this link: http://www.startribune.com/local/north/130094243.html. There are also cases of prosecutorial misconduct. The Duke Lacrosse team is perhaps the most egregious recent example, in which the prosecutor deliberately withheld evidence proving the defendants were innocent. There are lots of examples of both kinds of “justice” failure. No need to cite them all here.

Have any innocent persons actually been executed? I don’t know, but it’s a distinct possibility.

That’s why I say the “justice” system is badly bent, at best, and maybe broken at worst. Too many guilty go free, or get less than true justice would demand. Too many innocent people are convicted, especially if they can’t afford a good lawyer. Moreover, even proving your innocence may leave you bankrupt.

I wrote this book, The Justice Cooperative, in part as a cautionary tale. If the “justice” system isn’t fixed, we may see people getting justice for themselves, by other means. The book presents one way that might happen.

Here are links to  some reviews (warning: there are some spoilers in the reviews):

http://www.buzzillions.com/reviews/justice-cooperative-reviews

http://www.snipercountry.com/BVT_Reviews/JusticeCooperative.asp

http://www.thehighroad.org/archive/index.php/t-80035.html

It can be obtained from Amazon:

http://www.amazon.com/Justice-Cooperative-Joe-Martino/dp/1932762000/ref=cm_syf_dtl_pl_8 (there are more reviews there)

Please read it. I hope you enjoy it.

Resistance to Tyranny

I have a book out, Resistance to Tyranny. It’s a primer on armed resistance. It’s available from Amazon. The direct link is:

http://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_ss_i_0_21?url=search-alias%3Dstripbooks&field-keywords=resistance+to+tyranny+a+primer&x=0&y=0&sprefix=resistance+to+tyranny

Here are some links to reviews.

http://westernrifleshooters.wordpress.com/2011/08/11/bracken-review-of-martinos-resistance-to-tyranny/

http://www.outpost-of-freedom.com/blog/?p=607

http://gardenserf.wordpress.com/2010/08/17/review-of-resistance-to-tyranny-a-primer-by-joseph-p-martino/

http://www.kosmosonline.org/group-post/interview-dr-joseph-martino-resistance-tyranny-and-just-war (this is an audio interview lasting 30 minutes).

I’m working on getting this book on Kindle and possibly other e-readers.

If you think you might  have to engage in armed resistance, you need this book. You need it before the time comes to pick up that gun. The wise man digs his well before he is thirsty.

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