Sunday, January 31, 2016

Day One Hundred Nine. "A Handful of Hell"

"A HANDFUL OF HELL," subtitled "Classic War and Adventure Stories By Robert F. Dorr," is a big, bold, daring publishing event from the creative team of Robert Deis and Wyatt Doyle. It has just shown up on Amazon, here. Orders are being taken now.

Like previous releases in The Men's Adventure Library, this book draws its inspiration from the men's adventure magazines that held a special place in our lives and on our drugstore magazine racks from the 1950s to the 1970s.

This a new book that takes us back to an era with war and adventure were told about in graphic action with a strong human element.

 Yes, I'm the author whose work appears here — it's a huge honor — but this isn't a book about me. It doesn't come from me. You can't get a copy from me.

 As Wyatt Doyle says it:

"For me, the great appeal of the stories in 'A HANDFUL OF HELL' is that even in heated battle scenes, with multiple planes in the air, a full flight crew to keep tabs on, and explosions all around, you never lose sight of the characters and what they're dealing with, both externally and internally. The technical authenticity of these stories never overpowers their human element. It's also a big part of what makes these stories stand out."

And what made the men's adventure magazines stand out was their emphasis on action, action, action, but always with human decision making at play.

The creators of this book, which its words and art drawn from the men's adventure magazines, believe they're accomplished something so powerful that it breaks out from the magazine genre that inspired it, Even if you've never held a copy of STAG, FOR MEN ONLY or BLUEBOOK in your hands — even if you're among the 63% who were born after these magazines vanished by the shelves— you're going to be drawn b the riveting approach and sweeping content, standing with the title story about about B-29 Superfortress radio operator Sgt, Red Erwin who literally and figuratively clasped "A HANDFUL OF HELL" to save his buddies.
This a collector's item. It's unique. Nothing like it has been made before.

When I got out of the Air Force in August of 1960, my plan was to be a writer and an adventurer. The first example of my work in men’s pulp adventure magazines was a story called “The Night Intruders,” published in Real, April 1962; it’s included as a bonus story in the hardcover edition of this collection. The magazine editors paid me $100 for the story, about a B-26 crew in the Korean War. That was the first of what became several hundred stories and articles in those magazines. I’m using the word articles somewhat loosely because almost all of them contained a great deal of fiction, though I tried to make them all seem as realistic as I could. I did the same thing with the first story in Real that I did with almost all of the later men’s adventure magazine stories and articles: I typed them up on 8½ by 11 typewriter paper on a manual typewriter, using white-out, booze, and cigarettes.

I worked some part-time jobs in those years, but most of the time I was supporting myself with income from the men’s adventure magazines. (And, yes, from 1965 to 1989 I also had a real job). I wrote a lot for Magazine Management Co., which published Stag, Male, For Men Only, Men and others, and for Pyramid Publishing, which published Man’s Magazine and some other men’s adventure magazines. They usually paid me $350 per article, and $350 was pretty good. Not only was it pretty good then, it hasn’t gotten much better. There are plenty of fine, high-quality magazines that pay less today.

In many cases, the stories included a great deal of imagination. That was typical of the genre. But to write for the men’s adventure magazines, it was necessary to have some knowledge of history. If you were going to write about World War II, you needed to know something about World War II. You could use your imagination for the story, but you had to have some of the key details right to please the editors and the readers.

These magazines were read by regular guys. The fact that almost all of them happened to be veterans had something to do with shaping the content. These stories were being read by men who’d had similar experiences themselves. They had been there, done that, and when I wrote about warfare for them, I had to have the personalities and the details right and avoid puffery.

They wouldn’t tolerate having men like themselves overly glorified or to have war made glamorous, so I didn’t do those things.

More from Wyatt Doyle, co-editor and designer of "A HANDFUL OF HELL:"

“Dorr communicates his characters' fears, their uncertainty, the terrible losses fighting men suffer — in deeply human terms, putting readers not only in the scene, in the moment, but inside these men's thoughts. His accounts of these heroes drive the point home time and time again that these are not warriors, gladiators, or super-humans. These are our brothers, our buddies; they are us. It's a powerful sentiment, and one that can't be expressed enough. Reading these stories today, they have lost none of their potency.”

"A HANDFUL OF HELL" is available now as a 304-page trade paperback and as a limited edition hardcover with alternate cover art and 40 pages of additional material. An ebook edition is forthcoming.

Friday, January 22, 2016

Day One Hundred Six. My new crime novel

Published this month!


A murder story with a Washington twist.

Get it for your Kindle here.

For a signed hard copy direct from the author send $22.00 (by check or by using PayPal) to Robert F. Dorr, 3411 Valewood Drive, Oakton VA 22124, (703) 264-8950,

Thanks for your support!

Sunday, January 17, 2016

Day One Hundred Four. Influence: Victor Rook

Victor Rook is the influence who helped me make a huge break into a whole new world after 60 years of writing books, magazine articles and newspaper columns the old way.

I wanted to leap from traditional to self-publishing. The old model for book publishing, which once
brought literature to millions and relied heavily on chain book outlets, wasn't working so well any longer. The failure of Zenith Press to keep our war classic "HELL HAWKS" (co-authored with Thomas J. Jones) in print was the last straw for me.  I wanted to self-publish and explore new avenues for promoting and selling books.

I met Victor in a Virginia writers group in 2014. He knew how to do all that stuff: cover design, text formatting, and more.

I am indebted to Victor for sharing the knowledge that gave me a new beginning as a writer. I then switched to self publishing and from non-fiction to novel writing.

Sadly, many self-published books out there are of poor quality. That should be an indictment on those of us to get it right. So if you're starting on the self-publishing path, you should consider adding Victor to help you.

My new self-published novels, "Hitler's Time Machine" and "Crime Scene: Fairfax County," turned a profit much faster than any traditional book could have done. They'll be followed soon by "CRIME SCENE: SUITLAND, MARYLAND." Guess who's designing the cover?

My new friend

Victor Rook grew up in Western New York near Buffalo where he survived the Blizzard of 1977. He attended Michigan State University and received a BS in Mechanical Engineering and Computer-Aided Design.  For 13 years he worked as a technical writer and corporate trainer for various companies in Michigan and D.C.

In 1998, Victor jumped ship and began his own company designing websites and producing videos.
The jumping ship reference is his, but he adds, "I wouldn't say I turned my back on corporate America; I did what many entrepreneurs do. I set off to pursue my own dreams and creative endeavors."

His nature film, Beyond The Garden Gate, won two Telly Awards and aired on PBS for four years. While continuing to produce films, he began writing books.

His first book, Musings of a Dysfunctional Life, came about after his mother died in 2008. It's full of humorous and poignant recollections that anybody can relate to.

Vic's second book, In Search of Good Times, is a novel about a man who believes that the sitcom families from "All in the Family" and "Good Times" are real, and sets off on a road trip to find them.

His third book is a compilation of satirical horror stories called People Who Need To Die. In this book, society in the year 2021 is given permission to kill off bad drivers, spammers, obnoxious cell phone users, litterbugs, horrible bosses and more. I can't tell you how much I enjoyed "People Who Need To Die" and how much you'll admire the workings of this original mind. You can get your copy here.

Victor also recently completed a craft book called Dollar Store Crafts & Recipes.

Vic offers his services in graphic design and self-publishing to design other authors' book covers, edit and format their text, and get their books published on Amazon. That's right, he takes you through the entire publishing process. In 2014, influenced by Vic and other self-published authors, and disgusted by traditional publishing,  I wrote my first self-published novel, an alternate history, science-fiction version of World War II titled "Hitler's Time Machine." Vic explained how to get an ISBN number, designed the cover, helped me connect with an editor, formatted the text, and facilitated  communication with Amazon. I wrote "Hitler's Time Machine," but Victor made it happen. His eye-catching cover design is by itself worth the book, which in available on this Blog and here.

When he's not working on books and websites, Victor continues to photograph and videotape nature and area events.

Saturday, January 16, 2016

Day Ninety-Six. Influence: Andrew F. Antippas

When Saigon fell on April 30, 1975, the ops center in Washington was pandemonium.

Here's the official reason for the facility. The Department of State's Operations Center monitors world events, prepares written briefs for the Secretary of State, and facilitates communication between the Department and the rest of the world. It's manned by watch-standers who work in shifts to provide coverage around the clock. In a world where what floor you're on can sometimes determine your status, the Operations Center is on the seventh, or top, floor of the Department's 21st and Virginia Avenue, Northwest headquarters building in Washington. I worked in that building between tours of duty aboard for 24 years (1965-89) without ever knowing it was named the Truman Building.

I'd just completed my Foreign Service tour in Liberia, from 1974 to 1975, and was in temporary housing with my young family of four.

I didn't have a home. I didn't have "an assignment." There was unpleasantness about an article I'd published in the April 1975 issue of The AOPA Pilot magazine. Don't ask. You can see the magazine cover here, but don't ask.

Others with many years of experience couldn't remember any previous crisis that filled the Operations Center the way this one did.

Ops center: pandemonium

Like so many who were rushed into the overcrowded Operations facility, I was being pressed into a temporary detail while awaiting a future, full assignment.

That made me part of the Indochina Task Force headed initially by Ambassador L. Dean Brown and later by Julia Valada Taft. Our initial estimate that that we were going to resettle 130,000 evacuees from Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam. In the end, we handled twice that number.

The United States had never before attempted a refugee effort of this magnitude. The effort had elements in common with resettlement after the 1956 Hungarian uprising but the Hungarian exodus involved fewer people, easier geography, and an established infrastructure for handling refugees. When Saigon fell, we suddenly had over a hundred thousand escapees, a figure that eventually doubled, many of them scattered at sea from Thailand to Guam. Our precedented mission was to resettle them, using the parole authority of the Attorney General to admit persons to the United States on a scale no one had imagined when that authority was placed into law.

My boss was Andrew F. Antippas, a smart, vocal, motivated figure who wasn't afraid to get into arguments, even when doing do was detrimental to his career. I was impressed by his integrity, outspokenness, and refusal to yield when somebody insisted that something couldn't be done. Andy wanted to be where the action was and at that moment, in a nation divided and bitter over our Vietnam legacy, a humanitarian crisis without precedent was that place.

I always wondered which Andy was the hard-headed and honorable leader I knew. Was it the Greek heritage, the Massachusetts-boy upbringing or the experience as a Korean War combat infantryman had shaped him?

Born September 28, 1931, a dual-graduate of Tufts University, Andy joined the Foreign Service in 1960, five years before me. He pulled early assignments in Douala, Cameroon, Bangui, Central African Republic and Osaka-Kobe, Japan.

His subsequent assignments were the ones that transformed him into into one of the State Department's most seasoned Southeast Asia hands.  At some sacrifice, he took a posting as a political officer in the U. S. embassy in Saigon.

Unlike political hawks who believed they were fighting the true fight in Southeast Asia, Andy entered the war with mixed reactions. He was very aware of the drubbing the French had taken in Indochina. He was skeptical of the domino theory, which held that if one country fell to communists, others would. But right or wrong, Vietnam was where the action was, and Andy wanted to be where the action was.

Also unlike political hawks who rushed in where fools feared to tread, Andy knew war wasn't something you make haste to create.

The photo of five combat infantryman, with Andy standing at real center, comes from his period in infantry combat in Korea in 1953. In my mind I see the camaraderie on the men's faces as a mask for the the thousand-yard stare they aren't showing us. Having fought in one war gave Andy a realistic perspective on being in another.

Difficult duty

Volunteering for Foreign Service duty in Saigon inflicted hidden costs that linger today. Andy volunteered to go to the American Embassy in 1967 with the assurance that he would serve as a political officer. Andy felt that success in the Foreign Service required experience in political reporting and analysis. Newly married, he volunteered without consulting his new bride, a significant personal error.  Judy's immediate resentment stemmed from the fact that while she was willing to go to a war zone State Department dependents were not allowed in Vietnam due to the obvious physical dangers as well as the paucity of living quarters. Andy and  Judy are still together today but Andy's decision to volunteer almost wrecked his marriage and created resentment that lasted for decades.

After Saigon, Andy took up a particularly difficult posting at the U.S. embassy in Phnom Penh, Cambodia. He explored Cambodia and its leadership as no one else on our side had. He became the "go to" expert on Cambodia at a time when that country's affairs were pivotal to any Southeast Asia solution. More than once, Andy had to tell his bosses they were wrong about some pending policy move. They listened but at times Andy may have paid a price for being right.

Following his tour in Phnom Penh, Andy and I met in 1972, when we were country desk officers at 21st and Virginia Avenue, me for Korea and he for Cambodia. Although he served  in South Vietnam as well, Andy made an indelible mark as the State Department's expert on Cambodia. Later, when many became homeless. he felt strongly that the United States owed something to the people of Indochina who had been on our side and it would be wrong be betray them now.

We had other duties, but Andy and I were mainly tasked with solving the dilemma of those refugees who had not made it to U.S. soil, as many others had done at Guam or aboard U.S. ships at sea. Governments in Thailand, Singapore, Malaysia and especially the British colony of Hong Kong did not want to offer succor to the refugees who descended upon them. They wanted the United States to solve what they saw as a U.S. problem.

Andy doesn't remember it today, but I recall a conversation he had with a skeptic from another agency who'd been detailed to the Operations Center, apparently to undermine our mission to save souls in distress. How would we vet an unprecedented number of applications? What if common criminals, or spies, or, heaven forbid. communists, were to seize advantage of the authority we were using to move so many people into U.S. custody so rapidly?

"So your solution is to leave boat people stranded across ten thousand miles of ocean? Your solution is to strand refugees in a dozen countries that can't, or won't, resettle them?" Andy didn't like to he told something couldn't be done. "We can solve the problems. We can show what we're made of.  We can prove that even in the worst of times, Americans can rise to the occasion. We can make this thing work."

Refugee centers

Against some congressional opposition, the government set up four principal refugee processing centers on U.S. soil, one each at Fort Chaffee, Arkansas, Camp Pendleton, California, Indian Gap, Pennsylvania and Eglin Air Force Base, Florida. Andy remembers the Capitol Hill delegation from Arkansas as being especially concerned about tens of thousands of foreigners abruptly arriving on its turf.

As part of my work on refugees under Andy's tutelage, I spent July 1975 in the swamp at Eglin, living in a motel in Niceville, Florida, using a rental car and working in a tent supervising others who vetted refugee applications. "The American consul in Niceville," that was me.  An important event happened in my family while I was swatting mosquitoes in Florida: My wife Young Soon gave a realtor an offer to buy a four-bedroom Dutch colonial house on Valewood Drive in Oakton, Virginia. I never saw the house. I gave my approval to its purchase in a Niceville telephone booth. We bought the house that year, 1975, and have lived in it ever since except for the years 1979 to 1987, where we were in Stockholm and London.

I continued working in a tent, certain that our refugee pool consisted of deserving people and families to whom, as Andy would say, we owned a great debt. I was also convinced we missed some of the good ones: Many who deserved a chance at freedom never got out of Indochina.

I returned to Washington, at first to the Operations Center and later to a new home in the refugee task task force elsewhere in the building. My stint in the refugee task force ended by the end of 1975. Andy stayed longer. Whether the memory is real or imagined, I cling to this image of Antippas and I, struggled in limited space in the Operations Center, using its communications resources to make things happen when others couldn't because we were willing to improvise.

For me, a traditional assignment came the following year, as North Korea watcher in the Bureau of Intelligence and Research from 1976 to 1979. That ended my refugee experience and my work with Andy.

Andy Antippas went from our refugee task force to other duties including charge d'affaires in Nassau Bahamas, consul general in Seoul, Korea, and consul general in Montreal, Quebec before retiring from the Foreign Service in 1992, (I retired in 1989).

I see in Andy a man of heart and honesty who rose very far in our nation's diplomatic corps but who might have gone farther, perhaps even becoming a household name but for his outspokenness. Together, we moved mountains.

Maybe twenty years later, that government stuff behind me, my writing career is full swing, I was walking my dog Lucy near our Valewood Drive house, the house Young Soon bought while I was moving refugees at Eglin. A neighbor I had never noticed before popped out to check his mailbox. That's how I learned that Andy and I had been neighbors for years. We are friends still. On this ninety-sixth day since I was diagnosed with a fatal brain tumor, Andy has been one of those friends who've been there for me

That's heart.

Friday, January 8, 2016

Day Ninety-Five. Tumor Watch

Here's an update.

In October, I was diagnosed with a brain tumor known as a Glioblastoma Multiforme.

This type of tumor is always fatal. As one of my doctors, a sports fan, puts it, "It's undefeated."

Depending on what you read, and how you respond to the three forms of treatment -- surgery, radiation and chemo -- life expectancy generally runs from three months to fifteen.

I had brain surgery December 2 and completed radiation and chemo February 25.

So far, I've experienced no discomfort, pain, or side effects.

I've enjoyed sixty "straight" years of writing about the Air Force and aviation (interrupted only partially by a 25-year stint as a Foreign Service officer). No one ever had a greater privilege than to write about Americans who fly and fight. I've donated my archives and some cash to charities that I support, including the Glenn L. Martin Maryland Aviation Museum and the Commemorative Air Force (CAF). These groups honor veterans, educate young Americans and inspire the public.

My most popular book is "AIR POWER ABANDONED," the story of the F-22 Raptor, Defense Secretary Robert Gates, General T. Michael Moseley, and Gates' firing of the Air Force leadership.

My murder mystery, "CRIME SCENE: FAIRFAX COUNTY" was published in January. Both books can be gotten for Kindle, in print from Amazon, or,  preferably directly from me. Price per book when ordered from me is $22. All proceeds are donated to the Capital Wing if the Commemorative Air Force, a 501(c )(3) charity.

I'm still mostly me. The tumor affects my ability to type and my speech. My speech is fully understandable and I'm urging friends to call at (703) 264-8950. I can still think, read, converse, and be taken out to lunch.

I'm focusing on three projects -- getting our family's personal photos in order, publishing items on this blog about people who've influenced my life, and, yes, completing yet another crime novel.

I have wonderful support from a terrific family plus the comfort of knowing so many friends are out there. Thanks to you all.


(703) 264-8950

Robert F. Dorr
3411 Valewood Drive
Oakton VA 22124

Monday, January 4, 2016

Day Eighty-Nine. Influence: Richard E. Ristaino

When I think of Richard E. Ristaino - who was Risty when we knew him in Korea but Dick later on - I think of the quick mind, wit, and brilliance of a much-respected CIA officer who might, instead, have been a great American novelist.

I wonder whether his stellar performance in the intelligence community gave him compensation for the novel he never finished. And I think of a really good guy who influenced my life in big ways while his own life, near the end, became derailed.

Our work together was in intelligence but Dick strongly influenced my interest in American literature.

We had other interests—including working the North Korean tactical air problem as American airmen in Korea from 1958 to 1960—so it would have been easy to miss our shared passion for American authors and their works.

I like to tell stories, In time I evolved into a writer of mostly non-fiction, using writing to tell the real-life experiences of Americans at war.

Dick had loftier goals. Dick wanted to write the Great American Novel. In the 1950s, when American literature was looked at somewhat differently than today, everyone knew that meant becoming the great Ernest Hemingway, Norman Mailer or James Jones. Included in that circle of authors was James Salter of "The Hunters," who wrote lean, sparse prose about men at war before lapsing as a literary dilettante with pretentious tales of love and betrayal. Almost a decade after Salter when Joseph Heller's "Catch-22" appeared, Dick saw instantly how Heller had disguised tragedy as farce.

The late 1950s
Dick and I met at the Army Language School (today's Defense Language Institute) at the Presidio of Monterey, California. The year was 1958.

My Korean language class included Joe Fives and me. Dick's class, the one behind mine, included Larry E. Harry. These names resonate throughout my reminiscences, along with with the names of Bill Randol, who studied Korean at Yale, and Jerome Curtis and Pierre Messerli whom I met after the Air Force. Put the six names together and Dick Ristaino, Joe Fives, Larry Harry, Bill Randol, Jerome Curtis and Pierre Messerli were my closest friends throughout life.

Among the six, Dick was the only friend who wanted to be a writer.

Dick helped steer me to the work of Hemingway, Mailer, Jones, Salter and Heller. He loved those tough guy writers. He also loved the camaraderie of military service, just as those men had: Like them, we were irreverent American citizen-soldiers, ready at once to die for our country but not willing see anything serious about military discipline. Our sergeants were vastly overweight, with nothing like today's fitness program in existence then; Dick thought up terrific jokes about one, whom we called Fudd. We were the young, smart guys—through provenance, granted security clearances our bosses did not possess. It was hard for them to extract military conduct from us when they knew not what we were doing. I have no doubt that from the moment he arrived in Korea, Dick intended to write a book based on our experiences.

Perhaps more than any other author, we were influenced by Jere Peacock, who wrote "Valhalla" and "To Drill and Die." Peacock never received the recognition he deserved but he wrote with brilliant precision about the post-Armistice Korea we experienced, which was not quite peace and was not exactly war.

In Korea from 1958 to 1960, we monitored and studied North Korea's tactical air forces. We were upstarts. We caroused and drank. But we were damned good at the job use gave us and we took pride in it.

One day we were watching the morning mission take off, sitting outdoor in front of a Quonset when Dick pulled out a short story he'd written and let me look at it. He was aiming at a high-end, literary men's magazine like Esquire. (My own writing for the low-end men's adventure magazines had not yet met its first sale). I thought Dick's story was ready for publication but Dick balked at submitting it to a magazine. He continued to write stories and fragments of a novel.

Here's where it gets complicated with Dick. Where, for him, was the line between being an aficionado of American literature and becoming a creator of it? Dick soaked up every detail of what contemporary writers were doing, read their works, discussed their works and stayed alert for next developments. But while he talked of writing his own novel, did he ever sit and spend the lonely, long hours trying to make it happen? My photo above shows wife Marcia and daughter Elizabeth on the balcony of our flat in London, England in 1986. Today, neither Marcia nor Elizabeth is in possession of any long manuscript that emerged from Dick's typewriter.

I have no doubt Dick processed the thoughtfulness and talent to produce a great novel. But did his recalcitrance about showing his shorter works halt him in his tracks when it came to producing something long? Did his successes elsewhere prevent him from expending the effort toward
success where he craved it the most?

The early 1960s
I spent most of 1960-65 in San Francisco., Dick was in San Francisco much
of that time and often accompanied me on trips to my post office box to see, "whether Bob received any money from Phil Hirsch today."

I was being published in the men's adventure field. Phil, the editor of MAN'S, was my main benefactor. A check from his magazine, arriving magically in my P. O. box, was sometimes the difference between making the rent and having to stall. Dick was writing but not selling and not talking about his work. Never outgoing, he preferred to hold his literary aspirations to himself. How hard was he working at it? It was difficult to know.

We lived life large in the early 1960s,  those final years before the middle of the decade when Dick and I had to give our writing aspirations a back seat to serious government jobs. The Great Monopoly Scandal reportedly separately in my memoir about Bill Randol, was just one of our alcoholic hi-jinks.

Dick moved to Hawaii to study at the East West Center. There he met Marcia Reynders. They were a great match. The future Marcia Ristaino became an author in Chinese academe, including "China's Art of Revolution: The Mobilization of Discontent, 1927 and 1928." Marcia is lovely and brilliant; they had many years of happiness ahead before the derailment came. They had a fine daughter, Elizabeth. Both Dick and Marcia were CIA officers and both were much-respected. It would be impossible to exaggerate the superb reputation Dick held for his work on a subject I won't name. Nobody ever had stronger reason to postpone writing a novel on the side.

In 1965, I returned to Washington to join the Foreign Service, where no one minded that I wrote men's adventure stories on the side. Dick and Marcia were a couple but not not yet wed when The Great Fish Fry was held at Marcia's house in Alexandria, Virginia.

My father had gone out on the Chesapeake Bay with his fishing pole, or whatever the hell you use to catch fish, and had brought home an ice chest of succulent grouper. I took the fish, minus Dad, to Marcia's on a hot summer night and Dick, Marcia, Betty Nash McGiver and I were still consuming fish and alcohol after dawn. The Great Fish Fry was such a grand event that when I asked her about it recently, Marcia could no longer remember the occasion. I hope Betty Nash's memory is similarly afflicted.

During that period, I worked hard to create chances to write. On numerous occasions, I knew that Dick, too, was working away with typewriter ribbon, carbon paper and white-out ink. But we both had other preoccupations.
I knew Dick's talent was larger than mine. But I was receiving checks from publishers. I wondered if Dick were holding back, wanting to experience government work before darkening some publisher's transom.

From 1965 to 1967, I completed my first Foreign Service tour in Madagascar. When I returned, Dick and Marcia were married and living on Kalorama Road in northwest Washington. At a party at their place, they introduced me to fellow CIA officer Mary Cinek. I later took Mary on a date. Only a total buffoon like me could take a girl to see the movie "Grand Prix," with its incessant engine noises and 2-hour, 50-minute running time. In the summer of 1967,  I brought my first car, a green 1967 Ford Mustang. Having several weeks of home leave following the Madagascar assignment, I drove that car 18,000 miles in seven weeks, visiting all forty-eight contiguous states and Canada and Mexico. I sent Mary postcards from this solo travel journey. I don't recall whether we ever met again. My next Foreign Service assignment was Korea, from 1967 to 1969 and my car became only the second Mustang in Korea. As for Mary, I was more interested in her than she in me so like Gertrude Stein's Oakland 
after you got there, there wasn't any there there. Photo on Kalorama depicts, left to right, Dick Ristaino, Mary Cinek and Marcia Ristaino.

In 1968, I met my wife Young Soon,

While I labored as a diplomat, Dick matured as an intelligence officer. Briefly (1986-87), Dick and I worked together in the Bureau of Intelligence and Research in the Department of State. We still found plenty of time to survey the world of American literature. Norman Mailer's "Advertisements for Myself" was a favorite topic of discussion. Mailer, it seemed, was running for title of Greatest American Writer as if waging a political campaign.

In 1997 James Salter's "The Hunters" was re-released after having been held out of print for decades at the author's request. Because I'd published a history of the F-86 Sabre, the great fighter Salter flew, I was invited to the launch party, held in Washington. I invited Dick to join me, We were excited to meet a author who, by then was a top American literary figure. Salter was not the talkative type, nor for that matter was Dick, but Dick cornered Salter and elicited from him insights on how he lived and worked.

In August 1998, while living in Norfolk, Bill and Polly Anna Randol organized a mini-reunion of our squadron in Korea, the 6929th Radio Squadron Mobile. Back row, from left: Richard E. Ristaino (June 22, 1937-October 1, 2008); Larry E. Harry (October 1, 1938-February 4, 2002); Polly Anna Randol. Front row: Young Soon Dorr, William T. Randol (May 22, 1939-March 9, 2008), Robert F. Dorr. As reported elsewhere on these pages, cancer survivor Larry succumbed to a heart attack in 2002 and Bill was diagnosed with ALS two years later.

The derailment
Before he started showing up with his own cancer symptoms, Dick developed an issue with alcohol that altered his behavior around everyone, especially those dearest to him. An incident in 1999 led to an estrangement between Dick and me. When Dick had surgery on December 4, 2001,
I expressed concern not by phoning Dick but by writing to Marcia. The medical stuff went into remission for a time. The demon rum, which may have prevented the great novel from appearing also caused Marcia, with much regret, to divorce Dick after decades of love and respect.

Eventually, Dick and I reconciled. On January 15, 2007, I had lunch with Dick at a familiar restaurant a mile or so from Central Intelligence Agency headquarters at Langley, Virginia. One topic of conversation was Clint Eastwood's "Letters from Iwo Jima," which Dick believed was the better of Eastwood's two companion Iwo Jima movies. As always, Dick was up to date of the latest books and movies. But speech came slowly to him. Never a big man, he seemed smaller.
While we maintained high spirits and an upbeat mood, it was obvious that Dick was ravaged by disease. It was the last time we met.

My photo of "The Hunters" is a hokey British cover rather than the more sedate 1990s version.

Salter sent it to me with a note saying, incorrectly I believe, that the book "could be written better." Salter, a screenwriter with "Downhill Racer" to his credit, hated the Robert Mitchum movie, as we all did.

More on author Salter: Sadly, Salter and I had differences over payment for the photos I provided in his memoir, "Gods of Tin."

Editor Jack Shoemaker at Counterpoint Publications attempted to make peace, a rare instance of the editor being the good guy, but my friendly links to Salter never recovered, even while my respect for his work never wavered.  When Salter died on January 19, 2015, the Washington Post quoted me: 'When 'The Hunters' was republished in the 1990s, military historian Robert F. Dorr pronounced it 'the finest work ever to appear in print — ever — about men who fly and fight.'"

Dick and I enjoyed decades of fine moments together and much if it revolved around American literature where Dick was both a mentor and a powerful influence in my life.

Watch for typos, please. Eighty-nine days have elapsed since I was diagnosed with a primary brain tumor. Typing is becoming harder,

Richard E. Ristaino (June 22, 1937-October 1, 2008), I owe you plenty. Yes, you were one of the major influences on my life, and more.