A Little Time Trip Back to 1935

As the stressful year of 2021 shuffles off into the history books, it struck me that it might be fun to pay a visit to the real-world year of 1935—the same year that saw the beginning of the fictional Johnny Graphic Adventures (set in their own alternative-history universe where ghosts are real). In no particular order, here are some of the highlights and lowlights.

• Two years before her mysterious disappearance flying over the Pacific Ocean, Amelia Earhart makes the first solo flight between Hawaii and the U. S. mainland.

• One of the most epic construction projects in human history is completed. The Boulder Dam—later renamed the Hoover Dam—harnesses the Colorado River for purposes of supplying electricity to the western U.S.

• To help Americans still under strain because of the Great Depression, the U.S. Congress enacts two important programs. First, the Works Progress Administration begins to put hundreds of thousands of unemployed Americans back to work on a wide variety of public works projects; ultimately, 9 million would participate. Secondly, the Social Security Act is established to help elderly Americans live with dignity in their retirement years.

• In a small but bloody preview of World War II, Italy invades Ethiopia.

• In the world of animated film, Mickey Mouse makes his first appearance in full color and Porky Pig makes his debut on the silver screen.

• Three of the greatest political figures of the 20th century are in their primes, just a few years ahead of their rendezvous with global war. In the U.S., President Franklin Roosevelt is harnessing the power of the federal government to pull America out of the Depression. Meanwhile, the century’s two deadliest tyrants—Germany’s Adolf Hitler and the Soviet Union’s Joseph Stalin—are busily oppressing and murdering their own people.

• Babe Ruth hits his final home run.

• Penguin Books invents the paperback.

• In Germany the Peoples’ Car, the Volkswagen, is launched.

• Alcoholics Anonymous is founded in New York City.

• First experimental radar system is developed in the UK.

• In Japan, a new company is launched to manufacture and sell automobiles—Toyota Cars.

• Parker Brothers releases the board game Monopoly.

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The Complete Johnny Graphic Adventures Are Now Available as a Kindle Box Set

With the publication of Johnny Graphic and the Ghost of Doom last fall, The Johnny Graphic Adventures Trilogy is now complete. If you’ve read the first two books, and haven’t yet picked up your Kindle copy of Doom, just click here. It’s also available from E-pub booksellers such as Kobo and Barnes & Noble.

I’ve also created a “box set” of the three rip-roaring ghost adventures. Instead of shelling out $8.97 for the trilogy (if you purchased the books separately), you can enjoy Johnny’s complete adventures for a mere $5.99. Just click here to go to the Kindle box set of The Johnny Graphic Adventures.

If you’re an E-pub reader, the box set will be showing up at sellers such as Barnes & Noble and Kobo in the next week or two.

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D. R. Martin Street Photography Now Online: Time Trip to 1968

Like Johnny Graphic, I was a photographer when I was I kid. I roamed the streets here and in Europe for about five years, shooting candid images of people going about their lives. I’ve had photo shows of the work and magazine stories, too. But finally I’m putting together a permanent online gallery of the best of that work. There’ll be three albums, when I’m done: Minnesota, UK, and Europe. The first—Minnesota between 1968 and 1973—is up and running. You can check it out by clicking here.

You can either scroll down and view the album in a steady flow. Or you can click on any individual image and activate the slide show. Hope you enjoy it.

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The Johnny Graphic Adventures Trilogy: Book 3 Is Now Available

It’s been fifteen years in the making, but the Johnny Graphic Adventures trilogy is now complete. Johnny Graphic and the Ghost of Doom was published at the beginning of October. Here’s a teaser about what happens to Johnny, Nina, and the gang as they finally deal with that nastiest of ghosts, Percy Rathbone.

When a guy’s about to get sacrificed to the volcano god, he might have some second thoughts about the choices he made that landed him in this pickle.

But Johnny Graphic knows he couldn’t have done it any other way. Because these mountainous, frozen wilds are where his parents went missing. And being here is his only chance to find them.

That is, if he can manage to stay alive.

It’s the final chapter of Johnny Graphic’s great ghost adventure. And he and his sidekick Nina Bain have their work cut out for them.

Not only must they survive human-sacrificing tribesmen, they have to fight off murderous ghost warriors. Face down giant ice wolves. Stay alive when a massive volcano erupts. Stop a war before it starts. Help ghosts to really, truly, properly die. Defeat the most dangerous ghost of all. And, on top of everything, save the entire planet from doom.

It’s a heckuva lot for a twelve-year-old news photographer to handle. But Johnny Graphic’s up to the job!

It’s been quite the journey, working on these books over such a long period. And I’ve got to say, Johnny and his friends—dead and alive—are my favorite fictional “children.” It’s a little bittersweet saying farewell to them. But who knows? Maybe some day I’ll return to the metropolis of Zenith and revisit a world where ghosts are quite real. And where big adventures are just waiting for you, right around the corner.

You can get the Kindle e-book of Johnny Graphic and the Ghost of Doom by clicking here. The Kobo e-book is available here. And the Barnes & Noble e-book here. At present, the paperback is only available through Amazon, here. Wide distribution for the paperback—meaning non-Amazon sellers—will be happening in coming weeks.

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Veterans Day: My Dad and Peleliu

My dad served in the Pacific in WWII, as a medic in the 81st “Wildcat” Division. His outfit was involved in two notable fights. Angaur isn’t well known. Peleliu was unequaled for its sheer awful bloodiness. The famous 1st Marine Division invaded Peleliu in September ’44 and was mauled so badly that it wasn’t fit to fight again for another seven months. The 81st Division had to pitch in and ultimately concluded the 73-day battle. To his dying day my dad would never say a word about what he saw and experienced there. He would just shake his head.

Almost every book about Peleliu focuses on the Marines and understandably so. I’m reading the only published history of the 81st and it got me thinking about Googling my dad’s outfit. And I found an old Army documentary about the 81st on Angaur. So I’m sitting watching the thing—including many politically incorrect descriptions of the Japanese—and… Holy cow! That’s my dad!

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I’m putting up two pics. One of my dad smoking a cigar and goofing off with an Army buddy. The other a screen shot of a Wildcat in a helmet, from the film. The guy looks so much like Don Martin, it’s spooky. But two things are off. First, the nose is a little too full. Second, I never heard about my dad working on a landing craft.

Maybe it is him, though. He might have bopped his nose so somehow it was swollen. Maybe he was “volunteered” into different duty for a time. Like I said, the resemblance is just so vivid to me.

Anyway, here’s a toast to my dad and the millions of other dads and moms, husbands and wives, sons and daughters who put on uniforms and did what needed doing.

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Back to Okkatek Island, and Wow, Is Johnny in Trouble!

I began the final stretch of the Johnny Graphic ghost adventures last summer, but haven’t worked on it since then. Now that my King Harald mystery is with the first beta reader, I have time to get back into it.

Johnny and Nina and the rest of the gang are on Okkatek Island (my version of Iceland), searching for the mysterious ghost shaman Morbrec—who may hold the clue to defeating Percy Rathbone. And boy, are they all in big trouble. They’re being hunted by deadly tribesmen and a huge volcano is about to blow. Now I need to figure out how to get them out of this mess. Oh, and it’s Johnny’s very last chance to find out what happened to his parents.

I started the Johnny Graphic Adventures in 2006, not realizing that middle-grade fiction is one of the hardest fiction genres to sell for indie authors. My advice to would-be middle-grade indie novelists: Don’t do it, unless you’re fine with selling no books. If there is any other genre that you enjoy—that an indie author can potentially thrive in—go there instead.

But the thing is, I love the Johnny books more than any of my other series. For sure, they’re the most fun to write, as I channel my inner 12-year-old. And it’s going to feel awfully good, giving Johnny and his friends a proper ending to their story. I owe it to these characters.

Adobe Photoshop PDF

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Clifford Simak: Grand Master of Science Fiction


For many years I read science fiction (SF) almost exclusively and even put in a fourteen-year stint as the SF/fantasy book reviewer for the Minneapolis Star Tribune. Back in my journalism years I had the chance to interview some big names in SF, including Clifford D. Simak, who ranked high in the genre’s firmament. Though today his work isn’t as well known as it deserves to be, he was at the time declared a Grand Master—an equal of Heinlein, Asimov, and Clarke. I included two Simak interviews in my book Four Science Fiction Masters.

Simak was a gracious gentleman who twice hosted me at his suburban Minneapolis home. He worked fulltime as a newspaper reporter, and wrote novels and short stories on the side. His tales were almost always thoughtful and reflective, populated by everymen and everywomen who unaccountably found themselves in extraordinary circumstances. Many of the stories were rural-set, reflecting his upbringing in the woods of southwestern Wisconsin. My particular favorite is A Choice of Gods, in which robots inherit the earth and preserve human culture, after humanity itself has fled to the stars. It is a type of breathtaking pastoral SF that is rarely seen anymore.

My interviews with Cliff Simak are from c. 1980. Here are some excerpts.

On the respectability of SF:

I think [attitudes] began to change in the ’50s, [when] we were sort of bottom of the barrel, [when] other writers and editors and publishers looked upon us with some disdain. We were not accorded any legitimacy whatsoever. And if it bothered any of us, I am not aware of it. We were doing what we wanted to do. I don’t know if you could say we had faith in SF to the extent that we were entirely oblivious to this disdain that was held for us. We have now, I think, become generally recognized, so that that attitude’s behind us… At one time I formed a fairly good friendship with a writer whose name you’d know if I said it, and I’m not going to. And he knew that I was writing SF and asked to read some of it. And he said you write so well it’s a shame you’re writing SF. Why don’t you get into an area where some good writing can be done? And that shook me up considerably, because this was from an expert, this was from a man who was one of the outstanding men in the field. But I successfully resisted it… I’ve stuck with SF and not done too badly with it through the years.

On Star Wars:

I thought that the first half was excellent. I was extremely struck by the desert scenes. I got an awful kick out of the hairy monster that was driving the spaceship… I enjoyed the bar scene. I wish they’d carried that out for a few more feet. That was sheer delight. The rest of it was pure hokum, pure crap. But I suppose we have to have our big battles. I wish they hadn’t descended into violence. I wish they’d not descended into spectacle. I think they could’ve carried it on without the last half of the picture. It would’ve been much better…. Instead of trying to put on honest-to-God SF, they’re looking to the comic books for their inspirations. They’re feeding us comic book material now… I thought, as a matter of fact, that 2001 was a helluva lot better piece of work than Star Wars.

On greeting an alien visitor to earth:

If one landed in my back yard, got out of his machine or conveyance, I think that I’d walk up to meet him, without any particular fear and with no hostile intent, being very careful that I made no move toward him that might seem hostile. I’d give him a chance of not taking the initiative, walking out to be close to him and meet him and presumably to greet him… Probably he’s not a creature to be afraid of. That probably he is as anxious not to harm you as you are not to harm him. And while you’re being careful not to make a hostile move, he’s being just as careful. I would hope that we might make some noises at one another. I don’t think that we would gain too much understanding of one another in a brief encounter… I wouldn’t hesitate for a moment to go out and meet this creature, no matter how horrible he may look.

On humanity visiting the stars:

I would hate to see us, in the next several hundred years, be able to go to another planet where intelligent life might live, because I don’t think at this moment we’re civilized enough to do it. I think that we might be, we the human race, if we could go to another planet inhabited by intelligent beings, we might turn out to be the vicious life form that so many aliens have been in SF stories.

On being remembered:

I would hope that in SF circles a hundred years from now, once a year or so, somebody will say there was a man the name of Clifford Simak. I can’t be sure that that will happen. I’m not too upset that it may not. But I think that myself and Heinlein, Silverberg, Asimov, and Dickson and quite a few others that I could name, that we have been the pacesetters who will determine for a time the direction SF will take. Our influence will not be overwhelming, but we are the men who blazed the trail. And that gives me an awfully good feeling to think that.


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Johnny Number 3 Under Way

Boy news photographer Johnny Graphic chasing down the story

After a hiatus of three years, I’ve started writing the third and final Johnny adventure—tentatively titled Johnny Graphic and the Last Ghost. I’d been thinking about the story for a long time, but one can brainstorm and outline only so much.

This story takes Johnny and his friends to Okkatek Island to search for the ancient wizard Morbrec—from whom Percy Rathbone has taken dangerous knowledge. But Johnny, it turns out, has other ideas. Ideas that lead him into great danger.

To refresh your memory (and mine) about how ghosts work in Johnny’s world, here are the Eight Laws of Etheristics:

Ghosts—also known as specters, wraiths, sprites, spirits, phantoms, phantasms, and spooks—are the sentient remains of deceased humans and animals.

Ghosts exist non-corporeally in the forms and with the perquisites in which and with which they died, in a non-material universe parallel but contingent to our own, called “The Ether.”

Ghosts are creatures of free will.

Ghosts may exercise their free will by serving living humans and—and thus endowed by living “effectuators”—assume a degree of corporeality required to perform the tasks requested of them in our material universe.

Ghosts’ corporeality—including use of implements they may have utilized when alive—finds expression as it is needed and vanishes when it is not, often in the blink of an eye. The duration and efficacy of this phenomenon can vary, however, for reasons not yet understood.

Ghosts who are engaged corporeally in any activity that may harm living humans or animals are subject to the same injuries as the living—though they cannot be killed a second time.

Ghosts are free at any time to withdraw from their arrangements in service to practicing etherists, and others with the capacity to see and hear them, but thereby lose the benefits of corporeality.

Practicing etherists and others with the capacity to see and hear etherians are free to end arrangements with them, thereby terminating the ghosts’ benefits of corporeality.

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That Salty Pacific Water


A while ago I was rooting through a dresser drawer and found my dad’s old Silvana watch. The story was that he wore it when he was out in the Pacific as an Army corpsman in WWII. He stormed ashore one time and the “Waterproof” watch proved not to be. The rust on the hands is from that salty Pacific water. Amazingly, when I wound the watch, it still worked.

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Great Website for Camera Nerds

Graf+Graph+23_jpgJohnny Graphic, the 12-year-old hero in my two middle-grade adventures, is a real camera nerd. He loves them and makes good use of them in his job as a news photographer. Johnny begins with a big Zoom press camera. In the second book he shoots with a Ritterflex twin-lens reflex. In the final book, he’ll be using a 35mm camera not unlike a 1930s-era Leica.


Recently I ran across a terrific website devoted to historical cameras—Virginia’s Camera Heritage Museum. Their gallery of cameras includes just about every important film camera type and brand you can think of, with great images of the old cameras. Each camera depicted also has it own history briefly described. Just click here to go the gallery.


The cameras shown here are from the museum’s collection and most closely reflect the cameras that Johnny uses as he tries to save the world from ghostly catastrophe, one picture at a time. In fact, in the first book he discovers that his big Zoom camera makes a swell weapon, much to the dismay of one very nasty wraith.

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