Jun 292015
 

Part of my daily devotional reading includes Paul Thigpen’s A Year With the Saints: Daily Meditations with the Holy Ones of God. He finds and frames a wide variety of quotes from the saints. Including the more well known and the more obscure quotes that should be more well known. Just rich spiritual reading.

Now another book of his is also part of my daily devotional reading. A Year with Mary: Daily Meditations on the Mother of God. Again a plethora of quotes framed with a short introduction and a very short reflection and prayer follow up.

I really have to give kudos to not only the quality of work being published by Tan and St. Benedict Press, but also the aesthetic quality of their books. A Year With Mary is no exception. The ad copy states “Premium Ultrasoft with two-tone sewn binding, ribbon marker and gold edges”, which really does not describe the aesthetic beauty of the cover and the feel of it, the quality of the paper used, and the edge gilding. I just love holding it my hands when reading it. I might have pretty much totally moved over to ebooks, but prayer books require a more sacramental feeling. There is such craftsmanship and attention to detail down to the color of the paper and the rounded edges.

aYearWithMary

This picture only gives you a vague idea of the quality.

aYearWithMaryKirara

My cat Kirara even likes the feel of the soft cover.

Jun 012015
 

Demons, Deliverance, Discernment : Separating Fact from Fiction about the Spirit World is a recently released book by Fr. Mike Driscol which is published by Catholic Answers Press.

This book takes a different focus then other books I have read on the subject. Often even when there is a serious look at the subject there can be more sensationalist elements. Not surprising since elements such as those fictionalized in The Exorcist are a draw for many. I found the treatment of the subject in The Rite to be rather balanced, but its main focus was just on exorcism and the training of a priest as an exorcist.

One of the points regarding exorcism that I have heard stressed multiple times in Catholic circles is that the Exorcist has to be the greatest skeptic. That every possible cause must be investigated first and that many seemingly apparent cases may well have a psychological or material foundation. This is a focus of this book as Fr. Driscol is a counselor and has a doctorate in the area. He did his doctoral dissertation on the area of possession and exorcism and came to do many interviews with exorcists concerning this. The Church has long made such distinctions throughout history and he points out that even in the Rite of Exorcism published in 1614 distinguished between demon possession and psychological disorders.

The books first chapters investigate possession and exorcism in cultures through the ages and then their history in scripture. This is built on with information on the theology of Demonology and the various classification used as to levels of Demonic attack from temptation, oppression, up to possession. As discernment is a major focus of this there is much information regarding how these diagnosis are made. I actually found this whole process of discernment to be quite fascinating regarding how much rooted in a psychological problem can be taken for possession. The authors review of such discernment is totally in agreement with what the Church officially teaches regarding this. He is also very careful to identify these areas with his own opinions.

I really found his chapter on two approaches to exorcism as a classification of Exorcists to be very informative. He classifies two basic styles in what he calls narrow approach and wide approach exorcists. These are his own classifications which he developed after all the interviews he made with Exorcists. I won’t go into the details of these classification, but again I found the distinctions made to be useful. He has some skepticism to wide approach exorcists which from the little I know I am inclined to agree with.

One aspect of this book not normally seen is a look at deliverance ministries. While I was aware of this growing trend in Protestantism, I did not realize how much it had come into Catholic circles. This is an area of “ministry” that is not officially sanctioned by the Church for the laity and so it is an area with little oversight. He offers plenty of caveats regarding this along with what would be the actual role for the laity here.

Along the way I found plenty of questions addressed that either I had previously wondered about or that I had just never considered. Really so much about this subject is shaped more from Hollywood then from the Church’s careful teaching on the subject.

Overall I found this to be a very useful book on the subject that makes necessary distinctions. That while there are actual possessions and other forms of Demonic attacks, that is much to learn about other causes of such traits. Also while this book does not concentrate on the more sensationalist aspects of actual exorcisms, there are stories peppered throughout regarding such phenomenon.

The first appendix includes prayers for protection and the second appendix includes advice for pastors and ministers.

Recently due to the much publicized “Charlie Charlie Challenge”, he posted on the subject and provided a good counterbalance to this practice.

May 272015
 

I had certainly been looking forward to Jimmy Akin’s newest book The Drama of Salvation: How God Rescues You from Your Sins and Delivers You to Eternal Life as it has been teased for awhile on Catholic Answers.

The doctrine of salvation (Soteriology) is of course of supreme importance and like many important things it can be both easy and hard to understand. The subtitle of the book is actually a pretty good simplification of this branch of theology. The question “So what can I do to be saved?” is really the starting point to delving into this question.

One of the seeming goals of this book was to clear up confusion regarding this topic between Catholic and Protestants. Often there is no common vocabulary even when we are using the same words. So easy to talk past each other when we don’t spend time to define terms ourselves and also coming to understand how different groups use those same words. Another difficulty is that Protestantism in not monolithic when it comes these terms and different groups will have different understandings or nuances. As Jimmy Akin mentions:

“This is precisely the kind of situation that St. Paul was addressing when he warned about quarreling over words. He instructed St. Timothy to charge his flock “before the Lord to avoid disputing about words, which does no good, but only ruins the hearers” (2 Tim. 2:14).”

Another points he makes is that often there can be different insights and that these insights do not necessarily conflict. Different emphasis can lead to a deeper understanding.

Jimmy Akin is really gifted when it comes to explaining things at a basic level. He grounds this book with a canvas of scripture showing how scripture uses words like justification, salvation, forgiveness, etc. This understanding, like most things in scripture, was revealed more fully over time until being made more manifest in the New Testament. His use of the Church Fathers and others show how the early Church also understood what was revealed by scripture.

I know I am describing this book badly as it is so filled with information and insights that it is hard for me to summarize. Still I will try. This book certainly deepened my understanding regarding salvation. Even in areas I was familiar with he was able make concepts more substantial. I especially liked the helpful terms he used to categorize areas, especially in places where there is not a common vocabulary.

One topic area I found especially helpful was the one on “Outside the Church, no Salvation” (“Extra Ecclesiam, nulla sallus”). While I already generally understand the nuances involved and where the rigorists go wrong, I really enjoyed the fuller historical context. Other areas of interest regarded the Council of Trent’s teaching on justification and also the discussion on the Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification signed between the Lutheran World Federation and the Catholic Church. There are extensive bonus materials included in the book with many of the documents addressed in the book.

You don’t have to be a theology nerd to be able to read this book. This is written for a general audience and Jimmy Akin’s clear writing makes it worthwhile for everyone.

May 062015
 

Finding True Happiness: Satisfying Our Restless Hearts (Happiness, Suffering, and Transcendence) by Fr. Robert J. Spitzer, SJ.

In some ways this is a seemingly odd book bringing together arguments from physics, a technical analysis of the four levels of happiness, along with help with prayer. Moving from physics to prayer. Still as a whole it is quite cohesive and instructive.

I learned a lot from his detailed looking at the four levels of friendship. The division from first level of happiness in material pleasures up through transcendental spiritual fulfillment. I found even the discussions of the first three levels to be very helpful as they are all interrelated and are not exclusive to each other. The apologetic aspect of the book which addresses arguments for God from philosophy and science do some of the spadework for the fourth level of happiness and that the fullness of happiness lies with God. His last book New Proofs for the Existence of God: Contributions of Contemporary Physics and Philosophy went into much more detail over these details.

His look at prayer and contemplation takes a Ignatian path along with Fr. Spitzer unique way at looking at things. This was well-worth reading. I also enjoyed how he related his own experiences to topics covered, especially his own struggles and accouters with grace. This is the first book of a trilogy.

  • Volume 1 – Finding True Happiness: Satisfying Our Restless Hearts
  • Volume 2 – Our Spiritual Destiny: The Unconditional Love of God
  • Volume 3 – Seeing God’s Light in the Darkness: How to Suffer Well

This part-analytical approach to friendship and growing in love of God will not appeal to everybody. For myself I have continued to reflect about what he wrote in the weeks after reading this book.

Who Designed the Designer?: A Rediscovered Path to God’s Existence by Michael Augros

This books offers a thoroughgoing look at arguments for the First Cause. It takes a look at all the arguments for First Cause along with answering objections to those arguments. One of thee author objectives was to offer a non-polemical approach to this in answering questions from atheists, which he met. Basically this offers evidence for the existence of the God of the philosophers and focuses only on philosophical arguments and not scripture. While the attention is almost fully on First Cause arguments, there are also related arguments such as the problem of evil.

This is meant for a general audience and the author totally leads you through the philosophical arguments. A very useful book and really explores the arguments in a helpful way.

Apr 292015
 

As a convert to the faith I have become quite interested in the history of the Church during the whole lifetime of the Church. Pretty much every age of the Church is quite fascinating. The ups ands downs, the saints and sinners, all the ecclesiastical conflicts. These tensions in Church history are chronicled from the New Testament on.

After reading a new book I reflected on the fact that one aspect of Church history I have read a good deal on is primarily the last fifty years and the aftermath of Vatican II. Or more particularly the Spirit of Vatican II aftermath synergistic combined with cultural upheavals. This period really intrigues me as I try to understand the culture of dissent that has risen. I also noticed that the number of books regarding this period were mostly about the Church in America.

Having this interest I was happy to receive a copy of The Coup at Catholic University: The 1968 Revolution in American Catholic Education by Father Peter Mitchell published by Ignatius Press. I was somewhat aware of Fr. Charles Curran, professor of Theology at the Catholic University of America in Washington, and the controversy that rose up around him. This was an important event and was a sign of things to come. A case that became an unfortunate model at other Catholic universities to emulate.

This is a very well researched book and goes into great detail of what happened when first Fr. Curran’s contract was not renewed by the Board of Trustees of CUA (all bishops). What happened next was a revolt by the faculty in Fr. Curran’s favor and the Board of Trustees reversing themselves. There are plenty of sources used in this book which includes personal papers of those involved, published documents, Fr. Curran’s autobiography. The author of the book also personally interviewed Fr. Curran.

What engaged me in this book was the wealth of detailed information delivered in a non-polemical fashion. Certainly the title of this book let’s you know how the author thinks about this history, but still this is presented rather straight-forward. Although like most history regarding dissent it is as frustrating as reading the daily paper. As this is still rather recent historically you wonder about how things could have been handled differently.

The bishops involved acted correctly in their concern regarding Fr. Curran’s orthodoxy. Yet as usual instead of addressing the problem more head-on, tried to side-step it in a rather ham-fisted way. Instead of actually addressing the theological concerns they attempted to just not renew his contract and have the whole problem go away. Very Pollyannish considering that the theology faculty had approved his remaining and that he should be promoted. Obviously there were deeper problems going on with the faculty. This really emboldened dissent regarding contraception after the release of Humanae Vitae.

What I found interesting was the template developed that we see so often now. The media-savvy dissident theologian who knows how to garner support and to get the mainstream media involved. To present themselves as rather humble and the only reason they got the media involved was to right an injustice and that the action was for others, not about them at all. That the hierarchy was totally out of touch with theological concerns of society and thus were holding the poor theologian down and preventing their growth. Women theologians have taken the page out of Curran’s dissenting cookbook and added to it by blaming everything on the maleness of the hierarchy. Basically all reciting the line from Monty Python’s “Holy Grain” – ‘Help! Help! I’m Being Suppressed!’”

Of course the banner Academic freedom was flown every which way by those involved. Phrases like Academic freedom are what I would call bunker phrases. They aren’t meant for any serious intellectual engagement, but are something to hide behind. Anybody could come up with examples of proper limits for Academic freedom and edge cases where it would not aptly apply. Still bunker phrases are meant to be invoked like magical spells freezing their opponent from being able to say something back. You can’t mean you really are against Academic freedom and research into science?

One thing I am reminded off when reading about the state of Catholic education is the Israelites desire to have a king like the other nations around them. It was not enough that in a special sense God was their King. They were warned about the consequences of having a king and the problems they bring. No mostly they were upset that they didn’t have the same form of government as the nations around them. They wanted to be like everybody else. So faculty in Catholic universities also looked around and saw what they perceived as greater liberty in other institutions. As Israel cast of the Judges, these faculties cast off the Magisterium. Embracing an understanding of the Church that reduced it to any teaching authority. Dissidents did not really believe in a parallel magisterium, but that they were the magisterium.

I think of Hillary Clinton’s “Dissent is the highest form of patriotism”, until of course the dissenters are in power. The same is true in this case if you attempt to dissent from a dissenter. This book provides one case where this was especially true and all the talk of Academic freedom and conscience meant nothing in their treatment of a priest faithful to the Church.

If you are interested, as I am, in books of this type than this is well-worth your attention. This book is very well written and the appendixes include many of the documents sourced.

Apr 202015
 

Stephen J. Binz’s book Scripture–God’s Handbook for Evangelizing Catholics is one that in my review stack that I had not prioritized in reading. I had stereotyped it in my mind as another general book on the subject urging Catholics to go deeper into scripture. Besides the title is easily misconstrued. In fact in social media, where my progress through this book was recorded, several people thought that this was a Protestant book based on the title.

What I found in this book was something much deeper than encouragement in reading scripture and how Catholics should read scripture. I don’t really like how often the term holistic is used, but in this case it is what comes to mind. This author who has written on Lectio Divina before builds on this and how we can approach scripture with the senses along with the sense of beauty. How the use of a Catholic informed imagination can bring scripture to us and let us meditate on it.

I also liked his descriptions regarding blocks to reading scripture. For example relativism as blocks to scripture “We cannot witness to God’s word unless we not that it is not subject to changeable opinion or personal whim.” Relativism is also closely tied to individualism where we don’t read with the mind of the Church, setting personal interpretations as the highest arbiter of truth.

I especially enjoyed the chapter regarding the example of six saints and how their contact with scripture changed them. While St. Augustine was not one of the examples given, I was recently thinking about this in regards to him. Having not long ago re-read his “Confession” I was struck by how much Scripture permeated everything he wrote. This was especially true regarding the chapters after he describe this conversion. I saw so many more scriptural allusions this time around in reading it. Of course the only way for us to be also permeated with scripture is to read it, meditate on it, and allow it to change us.

The main theme of this book is evangelization with examples of this throughout Old and New Testament history. Letting the reading of scripture deepen our own conversions to be able to go out and evangelize others. This book contains much to reflect upon and to incorporate. For me it has been helpful in slowing down and not just reading scripture as if involved in a Evelyn Wood speed reading competition.

Apr 162015
 

I have often heard on Catholic radio that the size of the Catechism of the Catholic Church is intimidating for many people. I am not one of those people since a 802 page tome is like a good start for me. Still I can totally understand why this is so for many people. The Church understands this also which is why there is a Compendium of the Catechism of the Catholic Church. Still having a range of other formats is a good idea such as the Youth Catechism of the Catholic Church (YOUCAT). In a Church of over a billion people it is a very good idea to explore multiple ways to deliver the teaching of the Church.

When I received a copy of Tweeting with God #Big Bang, prayer, Bible, sex, Crusades, sin, career I was wondering exactly what this book was. I figured it was filled with short pithy messages 140 characters or less. Besides before the Tweet was invented we had a long history of short prayers called ejaculations or aspirations.

That is not what this book is at all. What the author Fr. Michel Remery has done is taken the idea of Twitter and used it as a thematic format to present information about the faith. This book uses lots of formatting to present information. Graphics, use of colors, textual formatting, along with a Twitter thematic format.

There are lots of ways this thematic metaphor could go wrong, but I found for the most part that the format actually works. Each page presents a numbered Tweet about the topic. These are used like paragraph references throughout the book. Paragraphs are presented with subtitles implying a sort of hash tag. Photos, graphics, info graphics, are also used to present information or illustrate a point. Related information is presented in a orange panel with black text. At the end a summarizing Tweet is used in another panel. You can see an example of the format here.

As a layout it works pretty well to present information and to divide up content. I found I had no problem reading through the content without being distracted by the format. Although I would not be surprised that some will not like the format at all. When ever you have heavily formatted content you will run into subjective tastes.

Reading through the book my main interest was exactly how accurately the faith was portrayed. Being that this is published by Ignatius Press it wasn’t a major concern. Still I wondered if it would be heavy on formatting and light on actual content. Exactly how would so-called hot button topics be presented?

What I found was that the topics were handled very well and accurately. Having only one page with a facing page to present a topic is a difficult task. Especially considering the amount of nuance often required. So I was happy to find that the Church’s teaching were presented quite accurately and not watered down at all. Over and over I was quite impressed with the presentation and that there was no effort to back down from hard teachings. This does not mean that I had absolutely no quibbles with information contained. Some things could have been phrased better. Plus when you try to condense so much history there is going to be information loss.

Another facet of this book is that it is not meant to be a Catechism, but more of a book exploring a range of topics and aspects of the faith. There is an apologetics aspect to this book, although I don’t think that is its main thrust. Mostly I see this book as a tool to help Catholics learn more about their faith. From the theological, to prayer, to living the faith, to just building on knowledge of Church history along with all the various nomenclature we should know. There is a ton of basic knowledge in this book, but probably a lot of what should be basic is not well-known.

This book can be used as a resource in a couple of ways. Since it is divided into topics somebody could use it as a reference to read more about something. There is some repeating of information to be able to make each topic standalone without having necessarily read a related topic. So you could go through this book rather scatter-shot just reading what is of interesting or reading through the whole thing. Plus the numbered Tweet references point to related material.

At over 400 pages this book covers a great deal and easily covers all the topics you would expect. Still there is one topic I wish was addressed. That is the various Rites of the Church. The Roman Rite was mentioned once, but there was no explanation of what a rite was, much less the number of rites in the Church. This is a bit of a hobby horse for me, which is why I noticed it.

Now a book with a social media metaphor you would expect some social media connection with the book. Well there is a Tweeting with God which has links to a iOS or Android app. This app actually includes much of the text from the book, but not all. Each topic tweet has the introduction along with subtitles and their content. Missing are the info panels and graphics other than the header graphic. Still it is certainly a way to consume some of the content along with sharing information on social media. In the book under the header graphic is a scan icon. You can use the app to scan the image in the book to bring up that section in the app. This is interesting integration, but questionable how useful it actually is.

They of course have a Twitter feed, a related hashtag #TwGOD, and Facebook page.

Julie D. at Happy Catholic also was impressed by this book and has her review here which includes links to pages from the book.

Mar 182015
 

When I see a book about about the scientific evidence for God I have some trepidations. Especially since there are many ways this can go badly. So when I received The Reality of God: The Layman’s Guide to Scientific Evidence for the Creator by Steven R. Hemler for review I had that in the back of my mind. Since it was from Saint Benedict Press I should have known not to be concerned.

This book is rather straight forward and divided into three major categories regarding God’s existence. The cosmic, biological, and then philosophical arguments.

Generally the first part covers arguments regarding proofs of the universe having a beginning irregardless of what competing theory of the universe you go with. As part of this the Kalām cosmological argument is presented. After this are section regarding the fine tuning argument. How the universe seems to be fine tuned for life and that even minor variances in universal constants and laws would have rendered life impossible. I found the information well presented and easily understandable. While I have read several related books on these topics I still picked up some more information.

The trepidations I mentioned at the beginning of this post usually regard the handling of biology and evolution. I have gone through different phases regarding this myself. Originally held the view of evolutionary naturalism as a result of atheistic materialism. My conversion included a brief stop in creationism I picked up from Protestant radio. My mistaken belief was that if I was going to take the existence of God seriously that this went with it. After that I was more into the view as popularized by the intelligent design movement. Now my opinion is more along the line “Whatever God did is fine with me.” So the view usually called theistic evolution raises no hackles with me. This is the view this book goes into. I really liked how the subject was covered including necessary caveats. To often this topic is presented as either/or when really both/and is really called for. Regardless I am open to wherever the evidence leads.

The last part deals with what the author calls human evidences such as conscience, the light of reason, and the philosophical ways of knowing of God’s existence classically put forward by St. Thomas Aquinas. Again I found this presented well.

This is a fairly short book and so there is a lot of information to be covered and gone through. Really most of the topics covered usually require full-length book treatment. Still I think the book meets its objective as a layman’s guide. So as an introduction to these topics I consider this worthwhile and at a level for high school students on up. There are plenty of references to other books that do go in more depth. Fr. Robert J. Spitzer works are mentioned throughout. I found his book New Proofs for the Existence of God: Contributions of Contemporary Physics and Philosophy to be outstanding even if it made my brain hurt. Although that book is not for the casual layman and is can be quite technical in parts. As an introduction to some of the basic arguments for the existence of God I found The Reality of God as something I would have no problem recommending.

Mar 022015
 
  • Bergoglio’s List – Nello Scavo This book investigates the time from when Fr. Jorge Bergoglio was 39 years old and on. In the multiple biographies I have read on him I have seen some mention of the work he did to get people out of prison and out of the country. It is fascinating the degree to which this happened and it was not just a couple of occasions. The book estimates he saved 100 people from torture, imprisonment, and even death. I don’t thinks this is much exaggerated as the book also spell out many details I had not read before. I also found it interesting the amount of tradecraft he had developed. That term is mostly used regarding spies, but Bergoglio had lots of practical advice to people to keep from being picked up or noticed by the government. He even ran a Jesuit retreat that mostly involved hiding some people. There is even a rather funny story told regarding some priests he was giving an Ignatius retreat.

    The author writes that he went in investigating this story not sure if the investigation would put the now pope in a good or bad light, but that he would just follow the story. The number of people he helped and the range of people he helped is impressive. It goes way beyond the priests under his care to helping people here were not friendly to the Church at all. This is not a man who just talks a good game, but lives it out despite what would have been real dangers for offering this help.

  • Growing in Faith: A Bible Study Guide for Catholics Including Reflections on Faith – Fr. Packwa While this is a relatively short book, it does take some time to go through and that is a good thing. Fr. Mitch Pacwa has digested an number of scriptures related to faith in systematical way chapter by chapter. At first I was annoyed that the verses which were to be studied were referenced and to be looked up outside the book. Instead I found this helpful moving back and forth between the study guide and the Bible. I think I retained more and put these verses better in context with this training method. Quite worthwhile.
  • A Voice Undefeated – Collin Raye I’m not a Country Music fan and only knew of Collin Raye tangentially through Catholic radio. Still I was quickly immersed in the story of his life. There were many things that surprised me about his life which were not the track I expected of a Country Music Star. I found so much about what he had to say as something I could relate to respond to. The amount of suffering in his life is staggering with the uncountable hours in hospitals because of family members. This is a very intimate look into his life and the cross he carries. While his fairly early conversion to the faith as a traveling musician was not the pinnacle of the story, it is his faith displayed with almost Job-like obstacles. I might not be a fan of Country Music, but now I am certainly a fan of this man and the faith he lives daily. Good Lenten reading along with other times
  • Saints and Social Justice: A Guide to Changing the World – Brandon Vogt One of the sad signs of the time is the polarization and politicization of social justice. A phrase that has come to mean a subset to some of the wide range of the Church’s doctrine regarding this. The term Social Justice Warrior (SJW) has come to mean a specific type of liberal activist. These are just some of the reasons whey Brandon Vogt’s book is a important corrective to this limiting of social justice and what it fully means in the context of the Church. Brandon addresses some of the polarization, but concentrates on the examples of saints and others to more fully explore what it is to see the Church’s teaching in action. The range of people he uses add to this book and introduces the stories of some saints I was not aware of. I found this book quite impressive and useful and look forward to more books from him.
Feb 212015
 

For a while on my book wish list sat one called Swan Song by Robert R. McCammon. It finally landed on my actively reading list. I was pretty much totally caught unaware by the talent of this author, although somehow it made it to my wish list. Reading Swan Song I kept drawing comparison to Stephen King’s The Stand my favorite of King’s books. There are comparisons to draw, but they are also very different stories and I found Swan Song]swan to be even superior in parts. Heresy to my mind considering how much I have loved The Stand. So I was soon book binging on some other books recommended to me and found repeated great storytelling in a genre I so enjoy.

Recently I read his Boy’s Life and once again was absorbed in this time a Ray Bradberry-esque story combined with McCommon’s own gifts. At the end there was a set of acknowledgements. These I often don’t read, but this one caught my attention. So I was already enthused with this author, but wow I so love his acknowledgements which I can so relate to.

My thanks to Forrest J. Ackermann; Roger Corman; Boris Karloff; Vincent Price; Lon Chaney Senior and Junior; Jungle Jim; Sky King and Penny; Screen Thrills Illustrated; Ian Fleming and Bond, James Bond; Eudora Welty; Bob Kane; Barbara Steele; Big Daddy Roth; the Boys from Hawthorne though a young man is gone; Clutch Cargo; Space Angels; Super Car; the Captain and Tom Terrrrific; Yancy Derringer; Famous Monsters of Filmland; Gordon Scott ; Vic Morrow and the Combat squad; Jim Warren (sorry, Forry!); Boston Blackie; Zorro; Cisco Kid and Pancho; the Whistler; Kirk Douglas in Spartacus; the Rolling Stones; Thriller and those pigeons from hell; the Hammer Films bunch; Peter Cushing, the ultimate Van Helsing; Christopher Lee; Edgar Rice Burroughs; Red Skelton and the passing parade; Creepy and Eerie; Ray Harryhausen and the Ymir; Mr. Television , Milton Berle; It’s A Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad (Did I miss one?) World; Edgar Allan Poe; Lester Dent or Kenneth Robeson or whoever cranked out all those great Doc Savages; Three Dog Night (hello, Cory!); Clayton Moore, the one and only Lone Ranger, Richard Matheson; Roy Rogers and Trigger, X-Men; Buffalo Bob and Howdy; the Brothers Grimm; Bela Lugosi; Paladin; The Outer Limits; Brigitte Bardot (I didn’t spend all my time with Geographics!); Basil Rathbone; Mister Dillon! Mister Dillon!; Sir Arthur Conan Doyle; Invaders from Mars; Gene Autry; Steve Reeves; Aunt Bea; Dr. Richard Kimble; the Who; Hans Christian Andersen; 13 Ghosts and those weird glasses; Sergeant Preston of the Yukon; Mr. and Mrs. North; the Thin Man; Peter Lorre; Alfred Hitchcock; Here, Lassie!; Errol Flynn, the perfect Robin Hood; a man named Jed; the Aquanauts; Steve Roper and Mike Nomad; Clint Walker, Kookie, my hair’s falling out!; Gorgo; Rodan; Reptilicus; Charles Laughton; Oral Roberts heal thyself; The Gallant Men; Victor Mature swinging that jawbone; Walt Disney; Mr. Lucky; Burt Lancaster, Through the Looking Glass; Bronco and Sugarfoot; the Mavericks, wild as the wind in Or-e-gon; Joe and Frank; Fantasia; that house on haunted hill; Guy Madison and Andy Devine; The Mysterians; Dementia 13 (Yikes!); Captain America and Bucky; Harper Lee; Steve McQueen (Cooler!) on that motorcycle, jumping the barbed wire; Tom Swift and His; and so many, many more whom I will think of as soon as I believe I’ve finished writing this.

To two very special influences on this boy’s life and writing: Mr. Rod Selling, for his talent and imagination that continues on far beyond the Zone; and to Mr. Ray Bradbury. Your lake will always be deeper and sweeter than mine, your jar hold greater mysteries, your rockets travel truer to the heart. Thank you so very, very much.

McCammon, Robert R. Boy’s Life (p. 610). Open Road Media. Kindle Edition.