Mowbray & the Sharks


Howard Denson and his wife, Michele Boyette ("She Who Knows All"), love the movies of the 1930s, and he wonders if it was that influence that caused him one night to dream that he was being hustled into a 1937 touring car by a bunch of thugs, who clearly had mistaken him for someone else. The dream featured an execution (except the dreamer was no longer the young man at that time), a youth who is fading in and out of sight while taking a hot shower, and the young man and his fiancee fading in and out of sight at a dinner in a hot kitchen. When the author woke up, he wondered, "What the devil was all that about? Why were they trying to kill me, er, the young man? And --?"

When all of these and other questions were answered, we end upo with MOWBRAY & THE SHARKS: BEING A TALE OF GHOSTS, GANGSTERS, AND NAZIS, a comi-fantasy novel set in 1936-1937. Mowbray is the butler-valet-stepfather of Tommy Watson, supposedly an heir to Uncle Sinclair Watson's $137 million estate. He is competing with cousin Conrad Blocker, who finds great sport in embarrassing his older cousin. Neither knows that the Estate Committee has been rigged to throw the fortune into the hands of the Nazi party, to be used to build pacifist sentiment in the U.S.



Neither Tommy, Mowbray, nor Conrad is aware of a Midwestern gangster, Tommy-Gun Watson, a bank robber who is heading toward New York to establish himself as the Robin Hood of the East Coast. This gangster plans to wipe out this other Tommy Watson and take over NYC. T o take out the threat, two NYC mobsters, Bugsy Fluegel and Ratsky Rittoria, bring in a feared hitman from Chicago, Luigi Goldberg O'Brien Of course, they focus their attention on the wrong Tommy.

Mowbray has one particular skill to help him sort out the truth: When he was twelve years old, he was struck by lightning during a crackpot inventor's experiment. He has been able to see ghosts ever since then.

Mowbray and the Baron

In MOWBRAY AND THE BARON: BEING A TALE OF GHOSTS, CROOKS, AND SOCIAL VAMPIRES  (93,500 words; 3RD POV), Martin Mowbray is seeking peace and calm in 1937 when he accepts a position as butler/estate manager for Baron Culdraca, an eccentric recluse, who has left Mussolini’s Italy for the obscurity of Galliford, New York. Mowbray knows that his employer sleeps during the day and walks the grounds of Fledermaus House after sunset, and the Baron knows that Mowbray can see ghosts, thanks to an experiment that misfired when he was young. The residents of Galliford are glad to have someone occupying the mansion where a family had apparently committed suicide, but they are distressed to learn that the body of Maggie Kilgallen has been discovered in a city park with her throat cut. Mowbray acts as a catalyst to see


several murders are solved, even though the ghosts of victims aren’t aware that they have been killed. He and the Baron are instrumental in unraveling the cause of a train wreck that kills dozens

Mowbray and the Wolves

MOWBRAY AND THE WOLVES is a fantasy mystery set in 1938 in Tennessee and New York (83,000 words; 3rd person POV). As the world braces for another world war. Martin Mowbray's employer, Baron Culdraca, has been trying to keep his fortune out of the hands of Mussolini’s fascists and comes to the U.S. to an eerie mansion in Galliford, New York. The townspeople exhaust him with repeated requests for him to attend parties, so he locates a quiet, dark sanctuary in Eastern Tennessee. Blue Mountain and its underground lake and cavern should provide him with the peace he seeks. Unfortunately, as Mowbray and “Phillip Baron” drive down at night in their Duesenberg, they come across a gruesome death when a rural mail carrier has apparently been attacked by a wolf. Other deaths occur in Hansonville, and Mowbray uses his ability to interact with ghosts to see if he can solve the crimes. An accident when Mowbray was twelve left him with the ability to see ghosts but not to be able to differentiate them from the living.

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Mowbray and the Catacombs

In MOWBRAY AND THE CATACOMBS (fantasy/mystery, 3rd POV, 89,700 words), Martin Mowbray has been tasked by his employer, Baron Culdraca, to travel to Ombratta, on the border of Italy and Switzerland. It is on the eve of World War II, and the Baron wants to keep his remaining fortune away from the fascist dictator, Benito Mussolini. Minor mob boss, Tuba Delgado, has been pressured to escort a rival’s geriatric father back to Sicily, where he can die among his brothers. He “recruits” a reluctant Mowbray to help him with the ins and outs of transatlantic travel. If Tuba lets the old man get killed by New York rivals, then Tuba himself should expect to be killed. To avoid this, he recruits two gardeners from a New York state monastery. Brothers JoJo Nelson and Luigi Goldberg O’Brien were once gangsters, until they decided to work for God a.k.a. “the Big Boss.” They don’t mind going to Italy because they can take the ashes of a dear friend to be buried in the catacombs in Rome. Tuba also pressures Mowbray to come along since he’s headed in that general direction. In Rome, the fascists mistake Mowbray for a British spy and he endures torture. Along the way, he encounters the ghost of a woman killed for her insurance money. She saves Mowbray and helps to get retribution for two of her killers. In Florence, Mowbray sprinkles some of the ashes of a deceased priest around the dome of the cathedral. On the train northward, three Nazis capture him and torture him with a dynamo. He has to use his wits to avoid them. In Ombratta, he arrives just as Mussolini's military is planning an aerial bombardment followed by three truckloads of foot soldiers, some with orders 


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The Wild-Eyed Moderate series

Although too young to vote, the author considered himself an Eisenhower Republican, then a Nixon supporter, before finally being able to actually vote for Mr. Conservative, Barry Goldwater. A funny thing happened on the way to middle age and beyond. The positions he advocated for in the Fifties and Sixties have become (what's this?) radical. Now, he has surrendered to being a Wild-Eyed Moderate.


SHOOT-OUT WITH A WILD-EYED MODERATE, a collection of humor, satire, and opinion. Features time-travel visits with George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Abe, and other founding father comics, plus an introduction by Brewster Barlow, the original Wild-Eyed Moderate. 


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GUNFIGHT WITH A WILD-EYED MODERATE, another collection that applies humor to serious subjects by a writer whose intellectual and spiritual guide was Charlie McCarthy. Also features Brewster Barlow talking about his memories of his scraping out a living working for Gene Autry, Tommy (Little Beaver) Cook, Smiley Burnette, and Edgar Bergen. The essays, columns, and sketches in the collection focus upon the peculiar, as when a gorilla in a zoo is transfixed by the sight of a man in a gorilla suit making a commercial, to the serious, with a look back at Socrates’ execution. Several essays provide feedback to aspiring writers who may be having trouble with dialogue, dialect, punctuation, point of view, etc. One essay is “Encountering Ray Bradbury.”


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FIBBLES: Part Fable, Part Fib





This collection of stories (or even a flat-out novel) traces the frustrated love of Princess Esmeralda for her clumsy knight, Sir Jonathan d’Klutz, through transmigrations of their souls finally into a pot-bellied stove and a junkman. Since King Geoffrey the Grouch despises his favorite daughter's suitor, Johnny seeks advice from his protector, Sweet Margaret, who is also known as Mag the Hag with the Sagging Bags. He ignores her advice and also that from Fred, Ted, Ed, and Ned, the talking heads on the pikes at Hogmoor Castle. When Johnny challenges Sir Bull in his pasture, he is dispatched, and the transmigrations of the souls and spirits begin. Other fibbles include "The Awful Adventures of Princess Ethel and the Ambassadors," "Harry and the Talking Mugs," and "Reuben the Know-It-All." Princess Ethel was the smartest of King Geoffrey's children, but, since she was as randy as a newman, her subjects called her "Princess Ethel the Ready But Remember She's the King's Daughter." She leads the subversive attack against King Fengon of the Kingdom of Miasmort, who was far more wicked than he was clever, as she proves. 


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FIBBLE-FABBLES: FABLES FOR GROWN-UPS, PRECOCIOUS TEENS, NERDS, BIDDIES AND GEEZERS, AND THE SOCIALLY IMMATURE (fantasy, fiction, satire).  These stand-alone fables trace the tales about Emperor Leonidas and his animal subjects in the Land of Fibble. Future historians may choose to call our recent history the “Age of Electricity.” This force powered not only our electric lights, but it brought us the movies, radio, TV, and the internet. We find coursing through all of these the Story, the Tale, and the Fable. Aesop reached thousands with his fables, but Warner Brothers, Disney, and MGM reached millions and billions with their fables involving the pig, the ducks, the rabbit, and the mice. The Age of Electricity’s fabulists had such names as Thurber, Walt, Chuck, and others. Howard Denson, scion of the Southeast, removes his hat and offers to posterity his own fables, ranging from a satire of “It’s a Wonderful Life” to a dog-gone tale of a bad girl and a good dog with “Good-Bye, Dolly, and Hello, Doll-Face.”


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Strunk and White’s Elements of Style mixed with the humor of the Comedy Channel: The Wrong Stuff


THE WRONG STUFF: FINDINGS OF A FORENSIC GRAMMARIAN, sort of a cross between Dave Barry or the Comedy Channel and Strunk & White's The Elements of Style. Denson discovers that everyone (including himself) makes errors in writing. A continuous war goes on between the Prescriptive Grammarians, with their black flag of despair, and the Descriptive Grammarians, with their white flag of surrender. An aspiring writer doesn't have to join either side, but he or she needs to know the Power Dialect in order to pursue $ucce$$. 


(Denson's recommendation: Get the 2nd edition, which has a darker cover.) 

Judah P. Benjamin-Horatio Burdette murder/crime series



The author is fascinated with "inside/outside" perspectives, and this series offers a double dose. First, Judah P. Benjamin is an insider in the 1850s-early 60s since he is a member of the U.S. Senate and then a cabinet member for the Confederacy. But he is an outsider because he is Jewish, and he has to survive in what could be a treacherous environment. Second, the narrator, the fictional Horatio T. Burdette, is close to the action of the insiders, but, as a slave, he is the ultimate outsider.


THE CASE OF THE ANNIVERSARY LIBATION (1st Person POV, 88,500 words). Benjamin's amanuensis, Horatio T. Burdette, tells of his own Huck Finn odyssey from boyhood, to student, to early fatherhood, all while he is a slave.

The novel traces Horatio’s boyhood at the Burdette plantations near the Gulf of Mexico. A drunken Rainey Burdette has already caused the death of a horse in an accident that broke the collarbone of the twelve-year-old Horatio. Days later, Rainey is drunk at Miss Ginny’s Emporium when he uses Horatio as collateral during a poker game. Horatio ends up being the “property” of Captain Scowcroft, an anti-slavery gambler who had served in the war with Mexico.

At Omega plantation owned by the Osgoods, the Captain plays cards with the plantation owner and his guest, Senator Benjamin of Louisiana. The Captain realizes he is dying from being poisoned and quickly uses his remaining time to deliberately lose Horatio to the Senator in a game of blackjack. He gets Benjamin to be his executor and writes a quick will in which he gives most of his money to his little boy in Charleston. He does set aside enough for Horatio to be sent north for an education.

After the Captain’s death, three others die on the plantation. Benjamin continues his trip to Washington City, but leaves Horatio in the hands of people he can trust. Later, at Benjamin’s plantation, he meets an old slave with a rhetorical gift and a girl named Sophie, who is a little older than he is.

When in New Orleans and later in Chicago and Philadelphia, the Senator and Horatio pick up enough clues to solve the mystery of the poisonings at Omega Plantation.

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Clare and the Country People and Other Tales of Lower Appalachia

Welcome to Waldentown, a town of 2,000 in the Northern Alabama area of Lower Appalachia. The stories begin with the aftermath of the Civil War, and the narrators tell about soldiers' return, the first legal hanging in the county, a shoot-out that kills a sheriff, and especially a fire that destroys the modest home of Clare and Bert Robinson in 1914. They are forced to go out into the country "to make a crop," and town culture and foolishness meet their counterparts in the country. Fire also plays a key role in "The Magic of the Burning Boy" and "The Last Waltz of Luisa and Ted."

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