Welcome to WOLF NOTES, where interview questions stray from the rest of the pack. It’s nice to know the usual stuff like where an author gets their inspiration and why they write, but sometimes we need a little fun in our lives.
Wolf: This week we welcome Lew McIntyre. Tell us a little about yourself, Lew.
Lew: I was borne in Asheville, NC, attended Catholic elementary and high school, though I don’t know how my parents afforded it on my father’s taxi-driver pay. We managed, and I helped, first with a paper route around age twelve. Interestingly, I delivered most of Thomas Wolfe’s paper route that he described well enough in Look Homeward Angel to identify. I was a ham radio operator then, building or repairing my own equipment. I joined the US Naval Reserves while still a junior in HS, planning on technical rate training and two years active duty after graduation, then college on the GI Bill. What I got were delightfully unsupervised drill weekends at Naval Air Station Atlanta my senior year, and an appointment to the US Naval Academy instead. I graduated in 1970 with a degree in aerospace engineering, got my wings in 1972 and began flying with the TACAMO squadron VQ-4 at Patuxent River. I went to the Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey, where I got my masters in aero, and met my wife Karen. That was followed by another TACAMO tour with VQ-3 on Guam. I imported Karen and we were married there in a squadron wedding in 1979. We had two children, raising them while we cast about from Norfolk, to San Diego to Omaha, where I retired in 1990. My civilian career was as contractor/engineer, continuing to support TACAMO which I do to this day, about a hundred yards from the hangar at Patuxent River where I flew my first mission flight.
Wolf: Wow. Thank you for your service. If you could be any animal in the universe, what would it be and why?
Lew: I think I would be what I am, human, flawed, but we know we are flawed, and can constantly strive to be better.
Wolf: That’s a good way of thinking. What is the strangest food you’ve ever eaten?
Lew: Kimchi, for the first time in Korea, back before it was modernized. Made in jugs on everyone’s porch. The smell of fermenting cabbage, charcoal, and benjo ditches forever for me are Osan, though I am sure it is a bright bustling modern city now.
Wolf: If you had to pick a weapon, what would it be and why?
Lew: I am very partial to the Russian Nagant 7.62mm bolt-action rifle of WWII. Though it is a long rifle, it is exquisitely balanced. The first time I fired it, though I hadn’t used iron sights in decades (I use scopes on all my other rifles), I was able to place a clip of seven rounds into a two-inch group at a hundred yards. The adjustable sight is good for about a mile range (2000M), though I can’t vouch for the accuracy: the rear sight aims the weapon up at about a twenty-degree angle at that range.
Wolf: Impressive. What is the nicest thing you’ve ever done to your characters?
Lew: Antonius’ and Marcia’s wedding in her hometown of Liqian. It was totally unexpected, though they had been lovers for a year. Her mother was still alive, and it was just impromptu. They were traveling with a group of Xiongnu nomads. It was quite the multicultural event, part Roman, part Chinese, but with portions contributed by the Xiongnu nomads, the Arabs, and the mysterious character Galosga, from wherever he was from.
But first, she had to kill her consort in a fight to the death.
Wolf: That’s a harsh way to end a relationship. What is the meanest thing you’ve ever done to your characters?
Lew: Antonius and Marcia had developed a shy tentative friendship when they were first cast together on the ship Europa. She is a twenty-year-old concubine, physically and verbally abused since forced into that role at twelve. He is a Roman centurion, but oddly awkward around women, the ones he is not renting. He considers her above his station, a domina (lady). She is separated from her consort on another ship, and their subsequent hijacking causes her to consider that she may be rid of him for good. She blooms in the respect and deference given her by Antonius and his companion. Their friendship evolves, and just when it might transition to something more, somewhere in the South China Sea a sail appears on the horizon behind them, with the distinctive triangular topsail of the Asia, her consort onboard.
Wolf: Bummer. You’ve just been turned into a plant. Describe yourself.
Lew: I can’t! I have no mouth! I would be aware of the world at a much, much slower pace than an animal. I sense the sunlight on my leaves and ever so slowly turn them to face the sun but pumping fluids from one side to the other. I sense something like what you call pain, from predatory insects or damage, which causes me to repair it. I move by growing and that takes a while. We plants communicate with each other, which NPR reported a while back. We can communicate chemically with other plants, to warn each other of predatory animals or insects, so I would have some sense of smell, which would be my primary sense of the world. We also form inter-species symbiotic relationships, for example with fungi and mosses moving nutrient from one tree to another, taking a cut of the produce for their own use. Would I think? Perhaps. The NPR program indicated that plants can learn and remember, and since I can do those two things, I can have some sort of thoughts. And since I don’t have to move, I would have plenty of time for deep thought.
Wolf: Do you consider yourself a cat person, or a dog person?
Lew: Definitely a cat person. I like dogs, but I find them more demanding than cats. We have two indoor cats and an outdoor one
Wolf: While walking in the woods you come across…
Lew: A flint arrowhead. I would muse over the story behind it, how it came to be lost, then exposed again for me to find, hundreds or maybe thousands of years after it was made. I would examine the stone carefully, examining how it was shaped into a deadly weapon, wondering how long it would take to make one.
Wolf: If you could have a super power, what would it be?
Lew: Not much for superpowers, I like ordinary characters doing extraordinary things. I think I would most like to have very good night vision, able to see shapes, perhaps thermally, rather than visually.
Wolf: There is a door at the end of a dark, damp corridor. You hear rumbling. What do you do?
Lew: First, I would be very careful about opening it! Is the rumble water or machinery? Water of course has a chaotic arrhythmical character to it, with a lot of Gaussian white noise superimposed. If it were water, I would try to determine if is flowing in some sort of channel or directly past the door itself. If it were flowing past the door, I think I would hear more of a vibration, like water past a hull. In that case, opening it would be a very bad idea indeed. If it were a channel, on the other hand, an underground river, it might offer an opportunity or escape, perhaps more water, if it is not a sewer!
If it were machinery or vehicles, that would depend on my circumstances. Do I expect such things? If it is a manned space, do I expect the people to friend or foe?
Wolf: What five items would you want to have in a post-cataclysmic world?
Lew: I would want things that are durable, useful for making other things I need, things that I will not use up and be unable to replace.
- A swiss army knife, with multiple tools and accessories.
- A large hunting knife.
- A whetstone for sharpening them.
- Flint and steel for making fire.
- A book on blacksmithing
Wolf: Which of your characters is your favorite?
Lew: While I love the relationship between Antonius and Marcia, I think my deepest and most complex character is the pirate Ibrahim. He started his life on the sea forty years before the setting of The Eagle and the Dragon as an illiterate runaway shepherd boy, joining a ship at Jiddah to end up as a deckhand on some tramp freighter plying the Mediterranean. The ship picked up someone under military escort at Caesarea, a person of some status, who oddly enough took to talking with the young deckhand. He did not understand much of what the man was talking about and declined an offer to continue with him to Rome when he got off in Myra to board a big grain freighter. The man wished that God would grant the young Ibrahim his greatest wish. Later that week, a storm blew Ibrahim from deckhand to captain and into a life of piracy. He later learned through dockyard gossip that the same storm had been his friend’s big ship onto Malta.
Ibrahim at sixty is urbane, self-educated, and a meticulous planner. He runs a criminal enterprise that spans the eastern Mediterranean and northern Red Sea, preying on the lucrative Roman trade with India, always one step ahead of crucifixion. His enterprise rivals a military organization, with logistics to dispose of the loot, security to protect the valuable booty in transit, intelligence to identify lucrative victims and keep an eye on Roman surveillance. In another life, he might have been a successful businessman, general or admiral. He is ruthless and cunning, but never unnecessarily brutal. He kills only those who need killing.
Having hijacked the Europa, he finds his erstwhile accomplice has double-crossed him and his pre-planned safe port for disposing of the tons of gold and silver in the ship’s hold is likely compromised. He continues on, extemporizing, with more gold than he can swim with, until he forms an unlikely alliance with the two Roman soldiers, Gaius Lucullus and Antonius Aristides.
His underlying desire is to end his life with at least one friend… not an ally, not an accomplice, not someone who constantly bears watching, but a trusted friend. And to understand the message given to him forty years before.
Wolf: What story are you working on now?
Lew: Two stories are in work, one nearly complete, True Believers, the Founding Fathers of TACAMO. This is an anthology of ten memoirs, including my own, the people who came back to the TACAMO aviation community, when it was considered professional suicide to do so, and the commanding officer who inspired us to take that leap of faith. That is complete, though there may be one more submission (I am not waiting, this has been like herding cats!) This is an unusual story, as new aviation communities, built around a specialized mission, aircraft, and the accumulated customs and traditions that give it life, these communities do not emerge very often. TACAMO (rhymes with Whack-a-Mole) is one of only three new Navy communities to emerge since World War II, the others being airborne surveillance flying the E-2 Hawkeye, and the Electronic Intelligence community flying the EP-3, doing “spook stuff.” We are adding pictures now, then there will be a DoD security review. I hope to publish through the US Naval Institute Press.
The other story is a sequel to the The Eagle and the Dragon, the same characters ten years later where I left them off, from Kazakhstan to China, the Middle East, Rome to northern Italy. Various forces will put them on the move, to be drawn into the maelstrom of Rome’s version of Iraqi Freedom, the invasion of Mesopotamia in 115AD. Many of these characters had very minor roles in E&D, but will have major roles in The Long Road Back to Rome. The Jewish rebel/deckhand Shmuel, for example, joined the Roman army and rose to the rank of centurion. He will be challenged severely, to choose between the honor and duty of his new profession, and the Jewish faith which he doesn’t practice.
Wolf: What do you like to do when you’re not writing?
Lew: Ham radio, talking to people around the world, something I have done since the 1960s, hunting, running and biking. I love exerting myself physically to the limit. Oh yes, and wasting time with Freecell and Sudoku.
Wolf: Thanks, Lew, and thanks to everyone who stopped by. You can connect with Lew through the links below.
Lew McIntyre on FB: https://www.facebook.com/?ref=tn_tnmn
Lewis McIntyre author page on FB: https://www.facebook.com/Lewis-McIntyre-245650645781133/?fref=ts
Eagle and the Dragon book page: https://www.facebook.com/TheEagleAndTheDragon/
Come, Follow Me book page: https://www.facebook.com/ComeFollowMePilateAndJesus/?fref=mentions