A Literary Memoir


Tom Purdom




Installment Seven: Space Brats, Episode Two


      I knew I could probably write a sequel when I finished “Legacies”.  I visualized a story in which Deni had become a young officer plagued by his unconscious guilt reaction.  I had some vague notion the story might revolve around an inspection program that limited nuclear reactors and the possession of nuclear weapons.

The nuclear weapons idea didn’t arouse any strong reactions, however.  When I finally did write the sequel, the critical spark came from a historical epic.


Sometime in the 1970s, I bought a book called The Horizon History of the British Empire at a porch sale in West Philadelphia, I think it cost me two dollars.

My purchase was a set of two slim, heavily illustrated over-sized books housed in a slipcase-- the kind of publication academic historians sometimes refer to as “picture books.”  It was produced by the publishers of Horizon magazine-- a general-history companion to American Heritage-- and it actually contained a substantial text along with the pictures.  At one point, it unexpectedly side stepped into a capsule history of the fifty-year campaign the Royal Navy waged against the African slave trade, illustrated with watercolors created by a British officer who had commanded an anti-slavery ship.

As I remember it, I had read C.S. Forester’s Horatio Hornblower novels just a few years before.  It occurred to me the anti-slavery campaign was a natural subject for a sailing ship series.

Most of the sailing ship series that have been written since Forester popularized the genre have been set in the Napoleonic Wars or some other major fracas, and this creates a conflict between historical reality and the needs of fiction.  In fiction, you normally focus on one hero and place him in situations where his actions can have a decisive effect.  In big wars with big battles, the individual is usually a bit player in a huge historical drama.  The sailing ship novelists usually have to detach their hero from the mainstream of history and send him on special missions.  Hornblower never fought on a ship of the line at a major battle like Trafalgar.   He spent most of his career on smaller ships, traveling the world on special assignments.  The anti-slavery campaign, on the other hand, was an affair of small ships, commanded by young officers who normally engaged in ship-to-ship battles, rather than fleet actions.

The idea stayed with me for over twenty years but I didn’t feel it was something I could write.  It obviously required a British author.  Then, one Sunday afternoon in the 1990’s, Sara and I watched the movie Armistadt, which tells the story of slaves who took over a slave ship and fought for their freedom in US courts.  One of the most memorable scenes in the movie involved the courtroom testimony of a British officer who served in the anti-slavery campaign.  (He wore a red coat instead of blue-- to make his Britishness clear to the viewer presumably--but it was an understandable lapse in accurate detail.)  I decided I wanted to know more about the anti-slavery campaign and the Free Library of Philadelphia provided me with a fine short history of the West African effort-- The Royal Navy and the Slavers by R.E.F. Ward.

Ward’s book confirmed my feeling the anti-slavery campaign would make a great subject for an adventure series.  The history of the West African anti-slavery squadron included classic ship-to-ship actions; frontal attacks in open boats against slave ships anchored in rivers and harbors; incidents in which prize crews were overwhelmed and murdered; expeditions up the African rivers; and an all out assault on Lagos, which was a major center of the slave trade.

I decided to devote some of my reading time to a little preliminary research.  I tracked down the other two histories of the anti-slavery campaign through the Internet system for locating out of print books and found more books on the 19th Century history of the Royal Navy in the library.  My experience with novels over the last few years had convinced me I didn’t want to spend a lot of time on a novel project, so I decided I would devote two months to preparing three chapters and a short outline.  I managed to meet my self-imposed deadline almost to the day.

I thought the final package looked pretty good.  I would want to do more extensive research if I got a contract but an editor who read the proposal should have some idea of its potential.  Editors I knew expressed interest when I sent them query letters and I eventually tried the proposal on three publishers.  In all three cases, it simply disappeared, in spite of the initial interest.

This seems to be a common experience nowadays.  When I first started writing, magazines normally rejected in two weeks, and book publishers rarely held anything more than three months.  The five novels I sold between 1964 and 1972 all sold within a year.  Today, the writers of successful big-selling books will tell how their manuscript sat in a publisher’s office for two or three years while they waited for an answer.


The three histories of the anti-slavery campaign (all out of print) are The Navy and the Slave Trade by the British naval historian Christopher Lloyd, The Royal Navy and the Slave Trade by Raymond C. Howell, and the aforementioned R.E.F. Ward book.  The Howell book was the last member of the trio I managed to purchase.  When it arrived I discovered, to my disappointment, that it dealt with the campaign against the East African slave trade.

The West African slave trade is the horror most Americans are aware of.  The Africans who were crammed into ships on the west coast of Africa were hauled to the United States, Brazil, and the sugar plantations of the West Indies.  The East African slaves were taken to a slave market in Zanzibar and shipped to the Arab kingdoms in the Persian Gulf, where they were mostly used as servants or added to harems.  The British attempted to strangle the trade by intercepting the slave ships that traveled between Zanzibar and the Gulf.   Eventually, they took over Zanzibar and closed the slave market.


I had expanded “Legacies” into a novel and circulated a three-chapters-and-outline proposal with the same kind of results I received for the sailing ship novel.  I had also written a second Dorothy Min story which hadn’t sold.  In both stories, I had elaborated the concept of personality modification-- an idea I had also explored in my Casanova stories.  A moral idea ran through all the stories I had written on the subject.  The international society depicted in the stories had decided that it’s all right to modify an unborn child if the modification will help the child cope with life.  You can make a child stronger, more intelligent, handsomer.  You can even make a child more amiable if you think amiable people do better.

You are not supposed to modify a child, however, so you can create an adult who will serve someone else’s needs.  You don’t make people more aggressive because you want to use them as soldiers, or more cooperative because you want controllable servants.

So what if there was a city in the asteroid belt whose citizens violated that taboo?  Suppose the international government behind the Fourth International Brigade didn’t feel it had the strength to actually invade the city.  Suppose it treated it the way the British treated Zanzibar and tried to intercept ships carrying illegally modified humans. That would obviously be a more original-- and interesting-- idea than a story that reflected our contemporary concern with nuclear weapons.

A long, meandering journey had led me to the idea I needed for a sequel to “Legacies”.  I could even throw in a future version of a sailing ship.


Interplanetary sailing ships became a permanent part of my consciousness when I read an article on solar sails in the May, 1951 issue of Astounding.  The article was written by an engineer named Carl Wiley and it may well be the first article anyone ever wrote on the subject.  (I can pin down the date and the author’s name, by the way, because it’s noted in Centauri Dreams, a fine overview of current thinking on interstellar travel that science and science fiction writer Paul Gilster published in 2004.)

Light exerts pressure.  It’s a weak pressure but it can become a powerful force if you build a sail that’s big enough.  In interplanetary space, furthermore, the pressure from the sun never lets up.   A small acceleration can produce a very big speed if it continues, without a break, hour after hour, day after day.

Solar sailing ships can also tack.  On Earth, an aquatic ship tacks-- and moves against the wind-- by playing the force of the wind against the resistance of the water.  In space, a solar sailer can take advantage of the sun’s gravitational field.  Gravity pulls you toward the sun, light pushes you away.  You can play these forces against each other by changing the angle of the sail.  And move away from the sun, or toward it, at any angle you choose.

I had been reading about solar sails for forty-five years when I started working on this story.  I knew the concept was valid.  All I needed was some numbers.  How fast would a sailing ship accelerate if it had a sail of a certain size pulling a payload of so many tons?  How much pressure does light exert, per square meter, on an object located in the asteroid belt?

Carl Wiley’s article, as I remembered it, contained that kind of information, with the necessary equations.  Unfortunately, I didn’t have a copy of the article in my files.  And I couldn’t find anything useful on the web, for some reason.  I did manage to get an estimate of the light pressure at the asteroid belt, expressed in the acceleration it would create.  When I started calculating, however, I ended up with ridiculously low speeds.  After weeks of acceleration, my solar sailing ships would be moving at automobile speeds.  I found that hard to believe.  The solar sail enthusiasts promised more impressive velocities.  But they were usually considering ships that started near Earth, where the solar pressure is stronger.

In the end, I decided to stick with the low speeds.  I had a fudge factor I could always point to.  Most solar sailing schemes assume we can build sails that are kilometers in diameter and extremely light.

The sails will be huge structures, pulling tons of cargo.  They will be subject to all the stresses created by their own mass and the strain on the cables that connect them to the payload.  And they will withstand those stresses, the argument goes, even though they’re made of future materials that are lighter than tissue paper.

Materials that light, with that kind of strength, may be impossible.  If they are, the sails will have to be heavier.  And speeds will be lower.

I also had to keep in mind the difference between a water sailer and a space sailer.  On Earth, in the ocean, a ship can use the water as a brake.   If you’re pursuing another ship and want to come alongside, you furl the sails and the friction of the water halts you.  In space, if you fold up the sail, you’ll just keep going, and slide right past your quarry.  You can use the sail as a brake, but in that case the time you spend losing speed will be exactly the same as the time you spent gaining it.


The plot I ended up with revolved around a hostage situation.  My attitudes about the right way to deal with hostage takers were heavily influenced by the policies adopted by Britain’s elite special forces regiment, the SAS.

Like many people my age, I first encountered the SAS in the pages of Virginia Cowle’s book The Phantom Major, which I found in the Sand Hill military library when I was stationed at Fort Benning.  I’m always on the lookout for non-fiction that recounts small unit actions.  If you write science fiction, you are inevitably going to write some action fiction.  And action fiction generally focuses on individuals or small groups.

The SAS was founded by a young officer named David Stirling during the WWII North African campaign.  The SAS are commonly referred to as “commandos” nowadays but they were actually something more original.  Commandoes were raiders who often operated in large formations.  Stirling believed modern warfare had become so fluid that four man units could penetrate the enemy lines and inflict crippling damage.  Surprise was an important element in his thinking.  Small teams could slip past sentries, plant bombs, and escape in the confusion.

SAS stands for “Special Air Service”.  They were originally supposed to attack by parachute but that idea didn’t last.  In North Africa, they penetrated deep into the desert south of the German forces strung out along the coastal road.  Then they came out of the desert in jeeps and attacked airfields and other targets.  According to Virginia Cowles, they destroyed more Axis aircraft than the RAF.

The regiment was disbanded after WWII but reformed to fight the colonial insurgencies the British combated in the last years of their empire.  They have become one of the most famous military units in the world.  They are noted for their rigorous training and grueling selection procedures.  The SAS veteran has become a standard figure in thrillers.

The SAS was an obvious choice when the British realized they needed a counter-terrorist, hostage-rescue unit.  Their training for this mission includes live-action runs through a house containing dummies that represent hostages and terrorists.  They are trained to move through the building as fast as possible, shooting the terrorists without hitting civilians.

Their anti-terrorist work received worldwide attention in 1980 when they assaulted the Iranian embassy.  Terrorists had seized the embassy and taken most of the staff hostage.  When Margaret Thacher decided negotiation had reached its limit, the SAS did what they had been trained to do and settled the matter in six minutes.

When the SAS are sent into that kind of situation, the authorities understand that they will free the hostages by killing the hostage takers.  It seems to me that’s the only possible approach once you decide to resort to violence.  If you don’t kill the terrorists as quickly as possible, they can start shooting hostages or set off bombs and grenades they may have hidden on their bodies.

In my story, this attitude is reflected in the deliberations of the hostage committee which sets the rules of engagement.  The hostage committee is automatically activated whenever soldiers of the Fourth International Brigade discover they’re dealing with a hostage situation.  It’s headed by a colonel who maneuvers for a consensus on the priorities the committee should give the soldiers on the spot.

There are four groups involved in a hostage situation: the hostages, the hostage takers, the general public, and the rescue force.  The hostage committee is supposed to give the rescue force rules of engagement that include a priority list-- the order in which they are supposed to value the lives of the different kinds of people who can be affected by their actions.  The standard list is (1) the general pubic (2) the hostages (3) the rescuers.  And that’s where the list ends.


One of the standard tricks in plotting is a factor that functions as a ticking time bomb.  The hero’s difficulties are magnified by a time limit of some kind.

In this story, the ticking time bomb is a cargo container loaded with unconscious people that has been deliberately aimed at a nearby asteroid.  Deni has pursued the ship for several weeks and two of the people in the three-man crew decide to abandon it.  They are professional people smugglers.  For them, an occasional loss is just part of the business.  They aim the container at a small asteroid knowing Deni will have to rescue their cargo and let them escape.

The third member of the crew stays behind.  She is an amateur people smuggler-- a professional athlete who made a lot of money, lost most of it, and financed this venture in the hope she can recoup her fortune.  She will lose everything if the venture fails, so she is willing to fight it out with Deni and try to keep possession of the cargo.

I made the woman a professional athlete because I felt her story and her motivation would seem plausible to anyone who follows professional sports.  But what should her sport be?  My SF writer’s reflexes kicked in once again.  Never miss an opportunity to inject some plausible future novelty into a story.  I dug into the thoughts I’d had about future sports and came up with a combination of soccer and basketball played in low gravity with the athletes wearing small jets on their backs.  With that pinned down, I could combine background with characterization by inserting references to Deni’s memories of the way she had pulled off certain maneuvers in her prime.

There are no bystanders hanging around, so the hostage committee doesn’t have to worry about the general public.  Deni’s priorities, as ordered by the committee, are (1) the lives of the unconscious human cargo stored in the container and (2) his own life.  But Deni is a perfectionist, driven by the unconscious needs Dorothy is aware of.  Throughout the story, he is tempted to take extra risks, so he can score a bigger triumph and rescue the hostages without killing the athlete.


One of my best memories of this story involves mathematics.  The cargo container has fuel left in its thrusters-- little rocket motors that can be used to change direction.  Deni must board the container, overcome the athlete, activate the thrusters, and alter the container’s course.  But how much time does he have, given the speed of the container, its distance from the asteroid, and the size of the asteroid?

I could, of course, give him any time limit I chose.  But the speed of the container and its distance from the asteroid had to be consistent with the time.

At first I thought the math would require calculus-- which, alas, I had failed to retain after I left engineering school.   I felt I would have to calculate the exact trajectory the spacecraft would trace, just like Robert Heinlein would have.

Then it occurred to me I could do a reasonable job with trigonometry.  The container is drifting toward an object that is essentially a wall about a mile high and several miles wide.  I could arbitrarily assume the fuel left in the thrusters could only produce a fifteen degree change in direction.  At some point, the container would be so close to the asteroid a fifteen degree change wouldn’t take it over the top.  Once I knew where that point was, I would know when Deni would run out of time.

I couldn’t remember the formulas used in trig-- the trigonometric functions-- but I felt I would probably know what to do with them when I saw them.  One of the reference books on my shelves is a little paperback called Mathematics for Practical Use which contains basic, useful stuff on things like interest rates and elementary algebra.  It occurred to me it might contain the trig functions and lo and behold it did.  It even had a rudimentary table for the values of the sine and the other trig ratios.  I decided the formula for the tangent would suit my purposes.  I set up a little diagram, worked the equation, and got a satisfactory answer.  Later, I created a spreadsheet and calculated the value of the angle at different times as the ship approached the asteroid.  My spreadsheet program, Excel, contains the trig values so I didn’t even have to look up the value of the tangent.

This may seem like a minor matter but it gave me a lot of satisfaction.  I could still do trig.  I could still manipulate numbers.

I still feel good thinking about it.  I think I actually experienced some of the pleasure mathematicians take in their specialty,


Structurally, the story alternates between two viewpoints.   When Deni is the viewpoint character, we see a standard story of interplanetary derring-do, with Deni as the hero.  When Dorothy Min is the viewpoint character, we see the hero’s true motivations. 

Dorothy is a family therapist so she wouldn’t normally be a member of the hostage committee.  She has been tracking Deni’s career, however, and I linked her to the story through a friend-- a “combat psychologist” who has been assigned to the committee.  Dorothy offers to assist the combat psychologist and she participates in the committee’s communication net through a link with her friend.

In a story where one of the viewpoint characters is struggling with internal conflicts, you can heighten the drama-- and make the story more readable-- by externalizing the conflict and giving the character someone to talk to.  The combat psychologist performs that function and Dorothy also talks to a “dialogue program”-- a computer simulation that probes her feelings and motivations in the same way she probes her patients.  Her sessions with the program are an important part of Dorothy’s professional life.  She knows the recordings will be reviewed by a three-member professional panel which can pass questions and comments through the simulation.  Her discussions with the program fill in some of the background from the first story and reveal her conflicts about the decision she made when Deni was a child.


So what should I call this story?  As I wrote down titles I found myself circling around three words-- sergeant, mother, and glory.  Was there some way I could work all three into a phrase that would make a good title?  In the end, I decided to just use those three words and call it “Sergeant Mother Glory”, with Sergeant Mother being a mild play on ranks like Sergeant Major.  Oddly enough, Gardner didn’t ask for a title change when he bought the story.  As I remember it, in fact, he didn’t ask for any changes at all.

I thought it was a pretty good story.  I particularly liked the way the Dorothy Min scenes exposed Deni’s unconscious motivations.

As with “Legacies”, readers and reviewers failed to share my feelings.  One reviewer ignored the repressed emotions discussed in Dorothy’s scenes and dismissed it as a story about a conventional military theme-- the young man who feels compelled to live up to his parents' reputation.  And that was that.


In the early 1970s I started playing wargames with miniature soldiers, a hobby that had intrigued me since I had been a teenager.  I eventually built up two armies from the Seven Years War period in the middle of the eighteenth century.  This is a classic period for tabletop wargaming, a time when armies wore colorful uniforms and maneuvered in parade ground formations.  Christopher was the right age for that kind of thing so I had no trouble finding someone to play with.

The hobby even helped me cope with a serious incompatibility that had surfaced after Sara and I began our married life.  She was an exceptionally slow eater, I was exceptionally fast.  I kept my soldier-painting materials in a triangular cabinet in our dining room and painted figures for about twenty minutes every evening while I waited for her to finish.

Like a lot of people, I experimented with the hobby by starting with the inexpensive plastic HO scale figures produced by a British firm called Airfix.   Airfix charged two dollars for a box that contained about forty figures in half a dozen different poses.

One day, when I was visiting a hobby shop, I browsed through a display of Airfix figures.  Airfix could provide you with troops for almost any conflict you wanted to reproduce, with a set for each side.  Their little cardboard boxes quartered Romans and Ancient Britains, American Revolutionary War soldiers and British Grenadiers, French and British Napoleonics, Indians and American Cavalry, Arabs and the French Foreign Legion, and most of the well-known units from both sides of the Second World War.

In the middle of all this martial ardor, I noticed a box that contained a woman pushing a baby carriage, a man with a briefcase, and similar non-military types.  I assumed they were figures Airfix produced for model railroaders-- a logical assumption since Airfix produced scenery and other items in HO scale.  Then I saw the label on the box: CIVILIANS.

I found that funny.  To most of my friends, the figures in the box would just be people.

Real civilians, it occurred to me, don’t think of themselves as civilians.  It’s a military term.  It only becomes relevant in a military context.

If you know you’re a civilian, I thought, you aren’t.

It was the kind of wry, paradoxical thought that amuses me.  Thirty years later, it became the core of my third military brat story.


“Civilians” is a story about military children as half breeds.  Structurally, it’s a noose-tightening story.  The civilian members of a military family are placed in a situation which becomes increasingly challenging.  At each step of the way, they must decide if they’re going to act like soldiers or civilians.

They’re called civilians, not “dependents”, as they would have been when I was a military brat.  The adults are married to military personnel but they have careers and incomes of their own.  When I set up the family relations, I threw in some now-standard gender bending and spiced it with a sociological possibility that has always intrigued me.

The standard gender bending reversed the normal gender roles in the military families of my childhood.  The viewpoint character is a boy named Daj and his mother is the military officer in the family.  His father, who is accompanying him, is a civilian sociologist.

The sociological possibility is group marriage-- an idea I first played around with in a story called “Courting Time” that H.L. Gold’s successor, Frederik Pohl, bought for Galaxy in 1966.

A married woman who belonged to the Philadelphia Science Fiction Society once told me she felt every woman needed four husbands-- a successful moneymaker, a lover, a companion, and a devoted father for her children.  I thought that was an interesting idea, and it occurred to me a man could say something similar.

I encountered a few stories that included group marriages over the next few years but it seemed to me they were mostly stories about group sex.  They didn’t look at the emotional and social needs a group marriage could fulfill.

In “Courting Time”, each sex provides a specialist.  The family is composed of two moneymakers, two lovers, two parents, and two people who contribute fame or social status.

The specialists don’t devote all their time to their specialty.  They join the group so they can concentrate on their specialty and still satisfy their other needs.  The two parents can provide the children with plenty of love and intelligent attention but they also know they can spend time with the appropriate lover, accompany the appropriate prestige spouse to glamorous events like award ceremonies, and enjoy the high income provided by the moneymakers.  The money grubbers, on the other hand, can concentrate on accumulating wealth knowing that the children are being properly reared and they can spend time with the kids and enjoy interludes with the other adults when they get breaks in their schedule.

The relationships within the family are quite complicated.  Technological advance produces complex societies, I reasoned, and complex societies produce complex personalities with complex needs.

In “Courting Time”, I took all this complex reasoning and used it to create a light love story.  A group has a vacancy and the hero has to woo seven people, not one.  I called it “Courting”, with my penchant for terse one word titles.  Fred gave the title a lilt by adding an extra word, and the story appeared in the August 1966 Galaxy.

I included group marriages in a couple of other stories, including a novel proposal, that didn’t sell.  It’s an interesting idea in itself and it’s one of those extra details that makes readers feel they really have stepped into a future that is significantly different from the present.  Robert Heinlein included several unusual marriage customs, including group marriage, in his best novel, The Moon is a Harsh Mistress.  The hero of that book is involved in a “line marriage”-- an older male marries a younger woman, she marries a younger man after a few years have passed, he eventually marries a younger woman, and so on for as long as the series lasts.

It occurred to me some form of group marriage would ease some of the difficulties military families cope with.   I decided Daj would be the offspring of a military-civilian quartet.  He has a military mother and father and a civilian mother and father and the story indicates this is a popular arrangement.  Daj’s military parents can accept deployments, and advance their careers, knowing he will always have two parents living with him.  The civilian parents are the stay at homes most of the time but there is nothing rigid about the setup.  In the story, Daj’s mother has been deployed to the high energy cities that orbit Mercury and Daj and his civilian father have accompanied her.

For this story, I took still another look at genetic modification and personality modification.  In “Legacies” and “Sergeant Mother Glory”, this had been a great moral issue.  In other stories, including my Casanova stories, it had been a source of profound personal conflicts.  In an earlier story, Toys, which appeared in Analog in 1967, I had focused on economic class conflicts.

In my own childhood, the kid with affluent parents might get an expensive baseball glove.  In the future depicted in “Toys, he would start life with genetic enhancements that would give him a permanent athletic advantage over poorer children.

In this story, I opted for a matter of fact treatment.  Daj knows he has certain characteristics because his four parents chose them.  He knows they agreed on the obvious things like the best intelligence they could afford.  He knows they argued about personality traits like amiability and aggressiveness and his personality is, in certain critical ways, a compromise shaped by those differences of opinion.  And he accepts that as the way things are, just as we accept the strengths and weaknesses we inherited through the current random process of genetic mixing.

To me, that’s one of the virtues of science fiction.  You don’t have to commit yourself to a single attitude toward a possible future development.  You can look at in different ways, from the viewpoints of different characters.

Some readers don’t like that.  They want writers who take firm stands and tell them what to think.  But science fiction is fiction.  Your first job is to create an interesting, emotionally moving experience.  Beyond that-- and I don’t think more is really needed-- you can show readers how the future may look to the different kinds of people who will live in it.


“Civilians” takes place in a cylindrical military space vehicle that shuttles between the cities that orbit Mercury.  At one point, the vehicle plunges toward Mercury and skims above the surface, in an attempt to shake off a pursuer who is trying to take the passengers prisoner.  When Daj looks out the window, he sees two of the globe girdling habitats that I used in my second Casanova story, “Romance in Extended Time”.  With the insertion of that one paragraph, I joined my military brat stories and my Casanova stories into a single series that takes place in a common interplanetary future.  As far as I know, only one reader noticed that.  But I still think it was a neat thing to do.


I enjoyed writing “Civilians”.  In spite of the violence, it felt like a wry, ironic comedy.  The title is ironic, and the last line-- “They were, after all, civilians”-- maintains the irony all the way to the last word as it concludes a paragraph that makes it clear they really aren’t.  Sara told me she actually laughed out loud when she read the end.  A writer who had been a Navy brat told me she responded to the last sentence with a bitter grin.  She wondered, however, if most readers would understand just how powerful the military culture is.

Judging by the response, most readers probably didn’t.  The only reviewer who discussed “Civilians” dismissed it as a Heinlein-style effort in which the children save the day.  If these stories were supposed to give civilian readers some insight into the lives and attitudes of military brats, they probably have to be considered failures.

But you could probably say the same thing about The Great Santini.  When I mention the movie version to people who grew up in civilian families, they usually remember it, if they remember it at all, as a story about a nutty, abusive father.  None of them think of it as a major event.

Still, I like to think these three stories did have some value for a few readers.  Published works are messages stuffed in bottles.  They float around the world and a few of them get picked up by people who read your words and discover they aren’t alone in the world, there are other people like them out there.  One of the consolations of literature is an extended contact with a personality that shares some of your attitudes and feelings.

And what could be more representative of the military culture than a wry, violent comedy about military family life and civilian-military relationships?



Copyright 2007 by Tom Purdom. All rights reserved. This document may be printed out and archived for personal use. All other use is strictly prohibited.



When I was Writing: Installment One

When I was Writing: Installment Two When I was Writing: Installment Three

 When I was Writing: Installment Four When I was Writing: Installment Five

When I was Writing: Installment Six

When I was Writing: Installment Eight

When I was Writing: Installment Nine

When I was Writing: Installment Ten

Grieve for a Man (complete text)

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