History books, PhD theses, historical societies, Wikipedia, Google — they all fill in some of the blanks in your research.

But I’ve got to say my new favorite source of historical material is something I’ll call Peoplepedia — and if you have what you think is a better name, let me know.

Google? Duck-duck-go into the passenger cargo, buddy.

Wikipedia? So freewheeling, do I believe ya’?

Libraries and historical societies? If only your doors were always open.

History books and PhD theses? Even you can take a back seat.

Nearing the end of a two-month tour of library speeches, I’m putting Peoplepedia at the top of my best-of source list.

Catch it now or catch up later, people.

We had a great crowd at the Camden (Maine) Public Library, the Fire Code moving some of the 100-plus folks into an adjoining room.

Very satisfying. But the best reward? Two in the audience were able to tell me about two “safe houses” for escaping slaves in Wiscasset, Maine, of which I was not aware.

A week later, at a full house in the Winslow (Maine) Public Library, two more folks came up with two more “safe houses” to add to my list. One was a Fred Eames’ dairy farm where we bought our first border collie, the daughter of the Welsh National Champion.

Then came the Patten Free Library in Bath and we hit the mother load.

First, one elder citizen of the town told us she had worn her grandfather’s Ku Klux Klan robe, complete with Maine’s Invisible Empire patch, to school for Show and Tell.

Then an African-American gentleman informed the audience that Bath Iron Works, one of Maine’s largest employers to this day, had brought in black workers from the South to break a strike at the shipbuilding facility. The new residents were housed across the river in a segregated part of the city.

What our history books do not tell us, our fellow citizens sometimes do. True, you can’t always trust word of mouth. Can’t trust your own memory sometimes.

But I think just as often you discover hidden truths of the past — truths never revealed in written materials.

As Stanislaw Jerzy Lec, known for his philosophical-moral aphorisms, said: “You can close your eyes to reality but not to memories.”

Peoplepedia. Gotta love it!

Oh, and thanks to our new friends and wonderful library staffers in Camden, Winslow, Pittsfield, Boothbay Harbor, Belgrade Lakes and Bath.

IMG_0113.JPGWinslow Full House.JPGBath Audience.JPG

Memorable Characters on Four Legs

James Herriot’s All Creatures Great and Small, Donald McCaig’s Nop’s Trials, W. Phillip Keller’s Lessons from a Sheepdog, John Steinbeck’s Travels with Charlie, Anna Sewell’s Black Beauty, Steven King’s Cujo.

They all gave us memorable “characters,” ones we can cherish — well, all but Cujo. Bad dog. Bad dog!

So I decided to back through my novels and introduce you to my favorite four-legged characters: Kat Cardova’s border collie, Tuck; Francis Asbury’s favorite horse, Spark; and Max Braxton’s, well let’s just call him by his name, Thunder, a rodeo bull.

Then I want you to tell me of all the books you’ve read what is your favorite fictional creature?

Here are my own entries.

  • Thunder, an appropriate name for a bull bent on destroying any who would dare straddle his back. “Crusher” or “Gravedigger” would also be apropos. Here’s a scene from the upcoming Operation Jeremiah’s Jar:

Max decided to turn Bridges’s request [to walk the night streets in a dangerous Arab neighborhood] into a personal dare as well as a professional necessity. He remembered being tossed off a bull once when he’d competed in youth rodeo in Dallas-Ft. Worth. He’d landed hard on his right collarbone. His first thought had been whether he’d be able to shift the gear stick on his dad’s F-150. His second was of the bull—Thunder, they called him.

Later, his right arm in a sling, Max had walked to the barn where the bulls were penned. He’d found Thunder, stalked to his pen, and looked him in the eye. The encounter began as a stare down. The top rodeo bulls are the ones with red in their eyes, snarl in their mouths, and “kill” in their hearts. Thunder possessed all of these.

As Max peered at his foe, he realized Thunder had been provoked to anger since he was born. The bull knew nothing else. Indeed, rage was his reason to live.

  • The tenacious, brave and protective, forgiving and dedicated Tuck in these two scenes from the Thrill of the Hunt Series — the first from Chasing the Music and the second from The Three Sixes:

Suddenly, the face of her four-year-old border collie sprang to her mind and Kat blurted out, “I miss Tuck.”

“Tuck who?” Max asked.

“My dog. He’s the smartest and coolest dog in either Hemisphere. He usually serves the role as my protector.”

“So you want to send for him rather than me?” Max grinned.

Kat shrugged. “I just suddenly miss him. He’s always at my side—in the classroom, in my apartment, out and about everywhere.”

“But not here [Israel].”

“The quarantine period’s too long.”

“Of course.”

“He’s smarter than some people I know.”

Max smiled.

“I do not jest. He is,” she said.

“You’re saying Tuck could be a librarian?”

Kat reached over and smacked his hand. “Easily—and I miss him.”

“So, if he’s as smart as you say, phone him up.” Max chuckled. “Where is he?”

“He’s staying with a friend, Alice, back in the States.”

“So call Alice, find out how Tuck’s doing and ask to speak to him.”

He was joshing with her now and, darn it, she’d show him a thing or two about Tuck.

Kat checked her watch and dialed…

What Max heard was Kat’s end of the phone conversation.


“Yes, it’s Kat.”

“Well, I’m fine, but my friend Danny Arens was shot yesterday morning and lies in the hospital unconscious and fighting for his life.”

“Yes, right at his dig site.”

“We’re pretty sure it was Islamic terrorists.”

“No, I’m okay. We weren’t there.”

“Oh—‘we’ because I’m with a new friend. Max.”

“Not sure, but we think because Danny stumbled onto something they don’t want known.”

“I’ll write you an e-mail filling you in. I just wanted to see how Tuck is doing.”


“Really? To their school?”

She laughed.

“No. No, I don’t think he’s ever been a ‘show-and-tell’ before.”

“He did?”

“Well, I’m not surprised. I think he knows half of what I say. I have to spell some words and he’s figured them out, so I go to the Thesaurus and find another word to spell—”

“You, too? I should have mentioned.”

“Yes, you, Bill and the kids will figure it out.”


“Can I speak to him?

“Yes, Tuck.”

Kat looked at Max and said, “You remember that old TV show ‘Are You Smarter than a 5th-grader?’ Well, I think Tuck is.”

Max laughed. “Of course.”

Kat held up her hand for silence. “Tuck?”

No response.

“Tuck, it’s Mommy.”

A bark. Two barks.

“I’m sorry, but I’ll be gone longer than expected.”


“I’ll bring you a gift.”

A low growl.

“You don’t want a gift?”

Another growl.

“Then I’ll just bring me.”


Kat looked at Max. “That’s my boy.”

Max chuckled. “And a lucky boy at that.”

Kat slapped his arm.

“Tuck, I love you. Be a good boy.”

A bark.



  • ••••

And from The Three Sixes:

Max looked [Tuck] over. Appropriate. A stunning dog for a stunning lady.

“Tuck,” Kat said, “meet Max, the man I’ve been telling you about.”

Max kneeled down and extended his hand. Tuck met it with his paw and they shook.

“Handsome boy,” he said.

Tuck smiled. The dog smiled!

“He’s better than good-looking,” Kat said. “He’s my protector, best friend—well, second-best—and he’s a bit smarter than some high-school graduates I’ve met.”


  • Spark, an Arabian stallion of whom Bishop Asbury said, “He’s been the altar at which I pray; the pulpit at which I preach; the pillow on which I lay my head at night. And, with God’s help, Spark has saved my life.” Indeed, Spark saved Francis out of trouble when chased by Indians, wolves and, in this case, highwaymen in the southern Maine woods:

Francis would need more than skill on his horse today. Even Spark couldn’t outrun a bullet.

He lifted a prayer toward the heavens. “Lord, quicken our step.”

The path was barely two yards wide, an old Indian trail not wide enough for a carriage or wagon to pass—a shortcut he had used before. Francis turned to look behind him. Dark silhouettes on horseback rode in chase, probably a hundred yards away, visible only in the shafts of light flickering between the shadows of the trees. Two, maybe three that he could see. No. There was a fourth, to his left—probably the one who had fired the shot.

Francis turned to look forward. A branch! He ducked just in time, and reached to catch hold of his hat as the limb nearly snapped it off his head. Spark, sure-footed through years of riding narrow trails in the dark of night, avoiding roots that stuck out of the ground, shouldered around a turn in the path as if he knew to tighten the turns to shorten the distance he must run.

Behind them, men were shouting directions to one another. Cursing. Other, muffled words he could not understand. Did these men know of a shortcut, through a field perhaps, to get in front of him?

“Lord, guide our path!” Francis called, thinking his creaking joints were too aged for a dash through the thick woods.

As he rode on, his senses heightened. He heard the sound of the leather saddle creaking beneath him, felt the lungs of his horse expand and contract, smelled the sweat that glistened on the great stallion’s neck. He looked for a landmark. He had been so absorbed in his reading that he hadn’t known precisely where he was. Somewhere approaching Scarborough—near the meeting hall at Massacre Pond, where most of the townspeople had been slaughtered by hostile Indians more than one hundred years before, back in the 1690s. The salt marshes and ocean would be somewhere, not far, eastward to his right.

Another shot rang out, and another, one bullet snapping through a branch just a yard or two to Francis’ right. A shiver of fright flew down his spine.

“Giddya!” he hollered, and Spark seemed to stretch out his stride and drop lower to the ground. Francis pulled his hat down to his ears. Yes, he knew this path! There was Dunstan’s Brook up ahead. Putting his right hand to Spark’s neck, he spoke into his ear, “Don’t slow down at the water, boy. Fire right through it!”

As if understanding every word, the horse leaped into the fifteen-yard-wide stream, causing Francis to hold on for dear life, and plowed fiercely through the quickly flowing water. Asbury prayed that they would get to the other side before the highwaymen reached it. If not, he was a dead man.

Another shot sounded and a bullet hit the water beside him with a muffled thud.

“Too many souls still to reach, Lord!” he called out. “Protect Your child!”

A verse from a Psalm flashed before him—“May the Lord fulfill your purpose”—and he called again to the heavens, “Lord, my purpose isn’t fulfilled yet!”

Suddenly, as if sprung from a jack-in-the-box, Spark and Francis bounded out of the stream. Springing to the top of the four-foot-high stream bank, Spark bent into a turn in the path, entering a thick grove of balsam fur trees. Francis knew he was only a quarter of a mile or so from the village at that point. He heard loud cursing behind him; the rogues must have reached the stream.

Then, from his right another gunshot rang out. This time the bullet crackled through branches overhead. The rifle sights must be off, Francis thought with a strained smile. He lay prostrate along Spark’s back and settled his head to the left of the horse’s grand neck.

Francis refrained from digging in his heels. He and his horse were of one mind. He was sure of that. Speed to safety. Speed. Safety. His senses now fully awakened, he didn’t feel his sixty-four years of age at all. He simply felt he had to hang on now. A moment later, they dashed out of the woods and into an open field that led into the village of Scarborough some two hundred yards away.

Still surging toward the town, he leaned down to Spark’s ear and cooed, “You’re the best, Spark. I’ve loved all my horses, but you’re the brightest and the best.” Thinking of the close call he had just escaped, he laughed and added aloud, “And the fastest.”


So, these are my own three favorites — keeping in mind that authors should be careful not to cross the line and make an animal human. Man alone is created in God’s image.

Tell me, what (make that “who”) are your favorite fictional animals?


Max and Kat are back!

RGB_Jeremiah'sJarThat’s right, Operation Jeremiah’s Jar, the third Thrill of the Hunt thriller featuring black-ops veteran Max Braxton and archaeologist Kat Cardova, will be put on the presses this month.

I thought The Last Aliyah was important enough to bump ahead of “Operation Jeremiah’s Jar.” Elk Lake Publishing agreed and The Last Aliyah has been a hit and won a number of terrific reviews.* (see end)

But now it’s time to take on Middle East jihadists and European political twits and who better than Max and Kat to do so?

Here’s the scenario: The United Nations has long led a diplomatic jihad against Israel, even declaring Jews have no historic claim on Jerusalem.

But 2,600-year-old proof of Jewish ownership exists. Kat’s goal—find the prophet Jeremiah’s property deed to land outside Jerusalem, which would fulfill a prophetic promise to Jeremiah and the nation today.

Meanwhile, when the President decides to move the American embassy to Jerusalem, Arab jihadists explode in fury, targeting the heart of the Jewish nation. Max is called in to guard the ambassador, but his first duty is to protect Kat at all costs.

Wait for it. October 15 is just around the corner when Operation Jeremiah’s Jar will be available at, and as well as on Kindle and from yours truly.

* About The Last Aliyah

“Leslie has crafted a chilling novel… In [his] gripping narrative, political intrigue drips from every page.

— Midwest Book Review

— “This could turn out to be a definitive book, from the shame of replacement theology to the Christian involvement in the rescue of the Jews.”

— Frank Eiklor, president of Shalom International

The Last Aliyah is one of the most intriguing stories written about the plight of the Jewish people in the End Times. What makes it memorable is the author’s resurrection of the use of the Underground Railroad that originally brought the slaves freedom to Canada, and now used to bring Jewish people home to Israel. A must read for Christians who stand with Israel.”

— Mitch Forman, vice president of Chosen People Ministries

“In a world fractured by social clashes and religious unrest, The Last Aliyah is a bit unsettling. It will alert readers to realize how fiction could conceivably turn into fact.

— Randall Murphree, editor AFA (American Family Association ) Journal

“[The Last Aliyah] is a compelling, fast-moving and timely story, and unfortunately begins with a very scary, but very plausible scenario. I enjoyed the book, and kept wondering how [Leslie] was going to get out of the corner he had painted Omri into. Very clever using the sci-fi version of 2 Kings 6:18.”

— Neil Lash, co-founder of Jewish Jewels



A Lasting Impression

Part of the challenge of writing is leaving a lasting impression with the reader. Not simply the plot but key characters.

Think of Charles Dickens’ two-page description of Scrooge in The Christmas Carol which included:

Oh! He was a tight-fisted hand at the grindstone, Scrooge! A squeezing, wrenching, grasping, scraping, clutching, covetous, old sinner! Hard and sharp as flint, from which no steel had ever struck out generous fire; secret, and self-contained, and solitary as an oyster. The cold within him froze his old features, nipped his pointed nose shriveled his cheek, stiffened his gait; made his eyes red, his thin lips blue; and spoke out shrewdly in his grating voice.”

So, I’m looking back on some of my favorite character descriptions and want to share them with you, dear reader. Here goes.

From the upcoming Operation Jeremiah’s Jar, a contemporary thriller, the third book in the Max’s and Kat’s Thrill of the Hunt series. It’s about Macmoud Aaqil Farooq, leader of The Three Sixes caliphate’s European and African region:

This man did not fear. Fear itself cast a sullen glance in his direction before skulking way. The blood on his hands spanned continents and hemispheres. His greatest triumphs—insh Allah—had left Parisians, Americans, Germans, Italians and Londoners weeping on their knees.

From True North: Tice’s Story when the escaping slave Tice meets naturalist and author Henry David Thoreau, who is “conducting” him toward Boston:

“I believe,” Thoreau said, “there are things beyond what we can see or feel or smell.”

“Oh. God!” Tice said.

Thoreau smiled. “You might say. I call him that.”

“Good, ’cause it’s what He calls Hisself.” Tice grinned, glad he could exchange words with this obviously grand man.

Also from Operation Jeremiah’s Jar, revealing the relationship between Max Braxton and Sam Gronkowsky:

They’d trained together, fought together, dug a latrine together, cleaned each others’ M4s. Max had hot-bombed Sam’s field ration with cayenne pepper and Sam had blasted him out of bed at three in the morning with a shofar shriek that would peel the hide off a bull.

Another from Operation Jeremiah’s Jar, Max’s comparison of Kat’s new bodyguard, IDF veteran Kefira “Keffy” Jankel, and her former bodyguard, Idan:

“Idan’s a one-man Davidka [Israeli mortar used in the War of Independence]. Keffy? She’s a one-woman Cruise missile. Idan could wipe out probably a half-dozen jihadists at a time. Keffy’d take out a squadron.”

From The Crossing, a story of the Ku Klux Klan in Maine in the 1920s, this aside about lumberjack Jigger Jacques breaking up a log jam on a river:

“The Jig,” Andre interjected, “got right down in there, gave a little nudge to just the right log, and when that wall of wood came down on him—”

“He just hopped aboard like he was gettin’ on a train headin’ south,” Yvan chortled.

“Yessiree, Jigger,” said a young man standing next to him, “I believe you could ride the bubbles of a bar of soap to shore in a hurricane.”

From The Last Aliyah in which retired Red Sox player Bunyan “Jacko” Jackson is a “conductor” on a modern-day Underground Railroad, secreting Jews out of a hostile America. He has just received news that the US Senate has approved a United Nations resolution banning Jewish emigration to Israel:

Jackson’s mouth went dry. He scowled at the phone as if it were a Yankee pitcher, or an implement that could answer the stark question: How could the United States do this to its own people?

Max’s first assessment of Kat in Chasing the Music, the first of the Thrill of the Hunt series:

She was obviously a lady of class, of elegance—a refined woman who didn’t need to gussy up to look absolutely tantalizing. Green eyes. Short-cut, curly red hair. Lanky, athletic, about five-foot-eight, thirty-five-ish. No wedding band. Wearing khaki shorts and, he might say, very well indeed.

If she was available, he was interested. He had no romantic ties, no children, just a $1,000-a-month alimony and a train wreck of bad memories.

Also from Chasing the Music:

Kat turned to better observe this man beside her. Six-foot-two-ish, forty-two-ish, short, curly black hair with streaks of premature gray. (Thoughts of Jeff Chandler, the movie star of yesteryear, invaded her mind.) Square-jawed with a square face. If the SEALs had wanted a poster boy, this guy would be the choice.

She could visualize Max in Steve McQueen’s place on top of the motorcycle in The Great Escape, or behind the wheel of the Mustang in Bullitt, or slapping cuffs on a bad guy as bounty hunter Doc, or—and this widened her smile—flying off with Faye Dunaway in The Thomas Crown Affair. In her vision she was Faye Dunaway. She caught herself smiling.

I’d love to hear some of your favorite descriptions from your favorite books.

Meanwhile, come October 15, check out Operation Jeremiah’s Jar. I think you’ll love the action, the plot, the subplot — the whole works.

In fact, check out all my books at



The Man in Black

The moment I spotted him I sensed trouble.

It was his head that first attracted me. Well, his hair. Shaved from temple to temple, leaving his top with a thick, oblong mass of black hair and a four-inch ponytail, this was one unique dome. A cranium meant for a WWE ring,or X-Men movie. A crown whose owner was not to be messed with, unless…

Then I took in the rest.

Broad-shouldered, about six-foot, six-one, the dude was dressed head to foot in black — boots, trousers, t-shirt and vest, with a dangerous-looking dull-black gun in a shiny-black holster riding high on his right hip at four o’clock.

Wyatt Earp, anyone? Or Paladin (Have Gun – Will Travel) for you even older folks? Only this handgun resembled a Glock 29 or Sig-Sauer P220, not a six-shooter — even if Wyatt’s barrel was about nine inches long.

His stride was purposeful, confident, bordering on menacing. His dark eyes were focused. I watched closely, expecting … expecting, not distracted by the handful of people on this weekday.

Then came the Aqua Velva moment: he stepped into a footwear store and nodded, non-menacingly, even reassuringly, to the clerk.

The Aqua Velva slap-slap? We were in an outdoor mall in Freeport, Maine, I reminded myself. This terrorist-in-waiting is the mall cop. Perhaps destined for greater heights but, right now, a security cop.

Rest easy, all you mall shoppers and store employees.

Be sure to check out my latest novel, “The Last Aliyah,” at where it’s free on Kindle:,204,203,200_QL40_&dpSrc=srch:

A Vote for the UNrenowned

Maine natives know about the lobster rolls at Red’s Eats in Wiscasset, the crab cakes at King Eider’s Pub in Damariscotta and the fruit pies at Testa’s in Bar Harbor.

But what of the inconspicuous, the out-of-the-way treasures, those places the “locals” rave about — between themselves?

I remember being with a friend, Pete, in San Francisco and we trollied down to Fisherman’s Wharf, looking for a place to eat breakfast. Pete suggested we follow some fishermen. They were easy to pick out and, being “locals,” they’d know the best place to eat. So we did and I’ll never forget the eggs Benedict with crabmeat. Out of this world and I’ve never found it anywhere else, from the West Coast to New Orleans, even in Maine.

The same trick worked in New Orleans when friends Pete and I joined friends Cal and Tim and found a dive-looking hole in the wall whose cuisine equaled that of K-Paul’s.

This all got me to thinking about books and authors.

Think about it. The general public knows about J.K. Rowling, James Patterson, Lee Child, Danielle Steel, Harlan Coben, David Baldacci — all those folks whose books are front-and-center at every BAM! and Barnes and Noble. These authors are akin to the Red’s Eats in Wiscasset, the Harry Caray’s Italian Steakhouse in Chicago, Top of the Mark in San Francisco. (Well, some may naysay that Patterson is more like McDonald’s or Burger King.)

But what about the lesser-knowns, the authors you enjoy but about whom the masses of English-speaking public is oblivious?

For me, J. Michael Veron — author of The Greatest Player who Never Lived, The Greatest Golf Course That Never Was and others — comes to mind. I love golf and golf course design, and Veron strums all the right chords on that guitar.

Another is George MacDonald, famous in the UK in the 1800s for his Christian novels but mostly lost in time despite his works being resurrected in modern English by Michael Phillips.

And I just stumbled upon Stephanie Landsem, whose prose in The Thief is stunning.

How about you? Can you share your favorite not-quite-famous author or authors?

By the way for fellow golf lovers, check out my e-books, Putting a Little Spin on It: The Design’s the Thing and Putting a Little Spin on It: The Grooming’s the Thing on my website:

The books are filled with quotes and stories from such greats as Arnold Palmer, Jack Nicklaus, Sam Snead, Gene Sarazen, Ben Crenshaw, Pete and Alice Dye, Gary Player and the Joneses (Trent, Bobby and Rees) as well as “lesser-knowns” (to the non-golf industry, that is) like as Tom Fazio, Tom Weiskopf, Ed Seay, Tom Doak, Jay Morrish, Dr. Mike Hurdzan, Dana Fry, Joe Jemsek, Bill Kubly, Jeff Brauer, Steve Smyers, Jan Beljan, Ron Forse and many, many others.



Choose: Who’s Coming to Dinner (Contest)

It’s party time … and you get to pick your six favorite fictional characters to invite — or perhaps eight, or perhaps three. Think it through, not just off the top of your head.

Now, ask them to dinner. Oh, what a night. Consider the conversation, the engagement. Reflect on the conflicts, the encouragements of the encounters.

Now play it out in your head or on paper. How’s that for a challenge?

What would (Rex Stout’s) Nero Wolfe answer when (Daniel Silva’s) Gabriel Allon, the famed Israeli spy, asks him what he would cook for (John le Carré’s) George Smiley?

Would (Charles Dickens’s) Ebenezer Scrooge send (Mark Twain’s) Tom Sawyer back to the kitchen to get a larger turkey, and what size would be Scrooge’s tip upon Tom’s return?

What would (Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s) Sherlock Holmes answer when Scottish apocryphal bagpiper Gillidh Callum asks why the famous detective chose the violin over Callum’s majestic Highland instrument?

Would (Lee Childs’) Jack Reacher get into fisticuffs with (Ian Fleming’s) James Bond (yes, he was in books before movies) over a beautiful lady, say (Margaret Mitchell’s) Scarlett O’Hara?

I recall the BBC mini-series, Dickensian, which filled one Victorian London neighborhood with Dickens characters from Oliver Twist to Scrooge, the Cratchit family, Lady Dedlock, Miss Havisham, William Guppy, Mr. Bumbles, Captain James Hawden, Inspector Bucket and others. Jacob Marley was murdered and Bucket was on the case. What a hoot for Dickens fans.

And then there was Woody Allen’s Midnight in Paris, with a modern-day author visiting Paris and magically tugged back into the 1920s in Paris, where he gets to share his manuscript with Ernest Hemingway, F. Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald, and Gertrude Stein, and to meet with Pablo Picasso, Salvador Dalí, T.S. Eliot, Henri Matisse…

You get the picture. But do you get the idea? Ways exist to create something different from the “parts” of different “sums.”

If you’re a writer or want to be, how about picking your “parts” and pushing them all together toward a greater “sum”?

Let me know your ideas. The most impressive one that’s not my coming-to-dinner scene gets a free signed copy of my novel, The Last Aliyah, which has been described by AFA Journal as “a chilling novel… with gripping narrative and political intrigue dripping from every page.” I like that one.