Author Talks about Writing and ‘Spies of Revolutionary Connecticut’

By Jason Harris

 

Author Mark Allen Baker talks about his book during his visit to the Colchester bookstore, Books & Boos.

Author Mark Allen Baker talks about his book during his visit to the Colchester bookstore, Books & Boos. Photo courtesy of Books & Boos.

Author Mark Allen Baker, who lives in Connecticut and has written 17 books, spoke to Jason Harris Promotions about a number of topics including writing and his current book, Spies of Revolutionary Connecticut: From Benedict Arnold to Nathan Hale.

JH: Mark you have written 17 books, when did you start writing and when was your first book published?

MAB: As a corporate executive for the General Electric Company, I began writing articles on graphics software and hardware; our division was involved with numerous early developments in graphics, most of which people are familiar with today as Microsoft PowerPoint. As an avocation, I have always been interested in baseball. After writing and publishing a number of articles on the 1980s boom in baseball collectibles, I was approached by a publisher to write a book. I accepted and wrote the Baseball Autograph Handbook for Krause Publications in 1990. While the word autograph is in the title, much of the information was historical.

JH: What was the impetus behind your latest book, Spies of Revolutionary Connecticut: From Benedict Arnold to Nathan Hale?

MAB: Having visited numerous historical sites here in Connecticut, such as the Nathan Hale Homestead (Coventry, CT) and the Webb-Deane-Stevens Museum (Wethersfield, CT), the word spy kept creeping into my conversations with historians and volunteers. It intrigued me so much, that I instigated a bit of my own primary research and found that there was much more to many of the stories. Like my previous work for The History Press, the material filled a genuine need: a single resource that would answer a majority of questions any concerned individual might have. In this case, it was visitors to a historical site.

JH: When you were at Books & Boos in March, you mentioned that some of the spies you have written about are in the video game Assassins Creed. Can you elaborate more on this?

MAB: As most know, Assassin’s Creed III is a 2012 video game developed by Ubisoft Montreal for a variety of systems. The fictional plot is set in the 18th century, before, during and after the American Revolution. Benedict Arnold, who is featured in Spies of Revolutionary Connecticutis also included as part of the exclusive missions, available on PlayStation 3. Other individuals included: George Washington, Benjamin Franklin, Sam Adams, General Israel Putnam and Benjamin Church.

JH: How long did it take you to write Spies of Revolutionary Connecticut?

MAB: This work took me about nine months.

JH: How much research did you do for the book?

MAB: Since my interest in the topic goes well beyond the scope of the book, I conducted more primary research than usual; I easily could have written a dozen volumes on the topic. As far as locations, I visited numerous libraries, historical societies and landmarks. I was even in the attic at the Nathan Hale Homestead and inside the War Room at Versailles, France. Always believing that a writer must get as close to the subject as possible, I tried to visit where my subjects worked and lived, and even where they were buried.

JH: What draws you to writing about history?

MAB: The people are what draws me to history. They are more than two dates on a tombstone, far more. It’s my job, or so I believe, to bring them back to life and acknowledge, at least in most cases, their achievements. While most know the names of Ethan Allen or Nathan Hale, few are unaware of heroes like Daniel Bissell and Noah Phelps.

JH: What does your writing process look like?

MAB: The process depends upon the work. For Spies of Revolutionary Connecticut: From Benedict Arnold to Nathan Hale, I began with a full investigation of the topic. This ranges from books and manuscripts, to scarce articles and even pension testimony.  Since I stay in the period that I am writing about, my ‘downtime’ includes only related items, period books, videotapes on the subject, university lectures and even music. Only when I feel I am ready, often months into the contracting, do I finally draft, revise and edit.

JH: What is your least favorite part of the publishing/ writing process?

MAB: Editing. Having to extract so many individuals from this work-Spies of Revolutionary Connecticut: From Benedict Arnold to Nathan Hale-was difficult. For example, I had no other choice but to edit out some (minor characters) individuals from the chapter on The Culper Ring. Choosing 35,000 words to express any topic is a challenge.

JH: You started a sport’s bar. Where was this, how did it come about, is it still there and what was the name of it?

MAB: Upstate New York, Liverpool, to be exact. It was called “Bleachers.” It came through my participation in another business. We, the four of us, believed the timing was proper to undertake an investigation or market analysis. As a former Market Research guru for a Fortune 500 company that became my task. It took me about six months to complete my research. It confirmed our feelings, guided us to a site and composed our business. I sold my shares three years into the business. I believe it lasted about four years longer before shutting its doors.

JH: Have you been involved in any other businesses?

MAB: Having worked for a large corporation for the bulk of my professional life, I began exploring other options when I was still in my thirties. A mail-order business, along with a sporting goods store, prepared me for the sports bar. That being said, having had managed three fast-food restaurants, before I started my own, certainly helped.

JH: How did your involvement come about in the New York music scene? Can you describe some of your experiences?

MAB: From 1975 until 1979, I supervised the shows at the university I was attending. During that period I promoted, or assisted, over fifty regional shows including: Aerosmith, Boston, Peter Gabriel, Genesis, Billy Joel, KISS, John Mayall, Queen, Bob Seger and Bruce Springsteen. My experiences could fill a book, and eventually will.

JH: Besides writing, history, and music, do you have any other interests?

MAB: Gardening. Organic fruits and vegetables are a favorite of mine.

JH: Are you working on any current projects?

MAB: Yes, I am currently working on a follow-up to Spies of Revolutionary Connecticut: From Benedict Arnold to Nathan Hale, that will be available in the fall of 2014.

JH: Just as your books inspire authors, what authors have inspired you to write?

MAB: Ernest Hemingway, David Halberstam, David McCullough, John Updike, Joseph J. Ellis, Ron Chernow … there are so many.

JH: What book do you wish you could have written? And why?

MAB: The Old Man and the Sea by Ernest Hemingway. Because it’s perfect.

JH: Are you there any upcoming promotional events you are doing for your current book?

MAB: Yes, I will be at Nathan Hale’s New London Schoolhouse on Saturday, August 16.

Zack Snyder Fans to be Treated to 13 Minutes of ‘300’ Sequel

300Warner Bros. has chosen ten major cities, one of them being Boston, to treat fans to the first 13 minutes of 300: Rise of an Empire at special screenings of Zack Snyder’s 300 on Tuesday, Feb. 4. These events are in celebration of the release of the sequel to 300, which arrives in theaters on March 7. Both films are based on the work of renowned graphic novelist Frank Miller. The 13 minutes of the new movie will be complete and uncut in 3D IMAX.

The chosen theater in Boston is the AMC Boston Common Theater. The Feb. 4 event starts at 6:30 p.m. To obtain tickets to this special fan event, visit Facebook.com/43KIXBoston.

ABOUT 300: RISE OF AN EMPIRE:

Told in the breathtaking visual style of the blockbuster 300, this new chapter of the epic saga takes the action to a new battlefield—on the sea. 300: Rise of an Empire pits the Greek general Themistokles against the massive invading Persian army, ruled by their God-King Xerxes, and led by Artemisia, the vengeful commander of the Persian navy.  Knowing his only hope of defeating the overwhelming Persian forces will be to unite all of Greece, Themistokles leads the charge that will change the course of the war.

Warner Bros. Pictures and Legendary Pictures present, a Cruel and Unusual Films/Mark Canton/Gianni Nunnari Production, 300: Rise of an Empire.  The action adventure stars Sullivan Stapleton (Gangster Squad) as Themistokles and Eva Green (Dark Shadows, Casino Royale) as Artemisia.  Reprising their roles from 300 are: Lena Headey as the Spartan Queen, Gorgo; David Wenham as Dilios; Andrew Tiernan as Ephialtes; Andrew Pleavin as Daxos; and Rodrigo Santoro in the role of the Persian God-King Xerxes.  The main cast also includes Hans Matheson as Themistokles’ closest friend and advisor, Aeskylos; Callan Mulvey and Jack O’Connell as father and son soldiers, Scyllias and Calisto; and Igal Naor as the Persian King Darius.

The film was directed by Noam Murro, from a screenplay by Zack Snyder & Kurt Johnstad, based on the graphic novel Xerxes, by Frank Miller.  Gianni Nunnari, Mark Canton, Zack Snyder, Deborah Snyder and Bernie Goldmann produced the film, with Thomas Tull, Frank Miller, Stephen Jones and Jon Jashni serving as executive producers.

The behind-the-scenes creative team was led by includes director of photography Simon Duggan, production designer Patrick Tatopoulos, editors Wyatt Smith and David Brenner, and costume designer Alexandra Byrne.  The music is by Junkie XL.

Opening on March 7, 2014, the film is being released in 3D and 2D in select theatres and IMAX, and will be distributed worldwide by Warner Bros. Pictures, a Warner Bros. Entertainment Company.  300: Rise of an Empire is rated R by the MPAA forstrong sustained sequences of stylized bloody violence throughout, a sex scene, nudity and some language.

Movie Review: ‘JFK Remembered: 50 Years Later’

 

By Stacey Longo

JFK Remembered 50 Years Later

JFK Remembered: 50 Years Later, directed by Robert Kline, is one of a trilogy of documentaries that Warner Brothers Home Entertainment released on November 12, 2013 to commemorate the 50th anniversary of President John F. Kennedy’s assassination.

The documentary opens by asking why JFK’s presidency is still so memorable. The narrator offers a few answers: President Kennedy was vibrant, charismatic, and full of hope and idealism; however, these are just words. A better response would be “Here. Let’s just show you.”

For show us the documentarians do.  The footage begins with a young John Kennedy announcing his candidacy for the presidency. The viewer is treated to rare footage from the campaign trail, and includes a memorable snippet in which the candidate addresses the issue of his Catholicism. “It matters not what kind of church I believe in . . . but what kind of America I believe in.” If you have no idea what kind of man President Kennedy was, you will soon come to realize that he was infinitely, undeniably, deliciously quotable.

The highlight of this section is not the 1960 televised debates in which Kennedy famously comes off as cool and polished while his opponent, then-Vice President Richard Nixon, seems shifty-eyed and nervous. It is instead the audio of one of Kennedy’s campaign ads, a catchy jingle proclaiming “It’s Kennedy, Kennedy, Kenn-e-dy for me!” It is a reminder of what an innocent time 1960 was, a contrast to the slander campaigns of today.

For a man who was only president for 1037 days (in comparison, by next September President Obama will have served for twice Kennedy’s term length) a lot happened during his tenure. After the election night coverage in Times Square, the documentary features footage from many of Kennedy’s presidential highlights: the formation of the Peace Corps, the Bay of Pigs invasion, granting the largest tax break in history, the desegregation of southern schools and the civil rights movement, the March on Washington, John Glenn’s space mission, Kennedy’s much-admired and still studied speech on peace and nuclear disarmament at American University, and more. Scenes from his visit to Berlin in June of 1963 are amazing. If you had any doubt that Kennedy wasn’t a phenomenon not only in his country but also around the world, this visit alone will convince you otherwise. The crowds of Germans cheering for him are in the hundreds of thousands—putting the Boston crowds after the Red Sox won the World Series to shame.

The film highlights the Cuban Missile Crisis, and JFK’s press conference announcing the missile activity and the evidence that the Soviet Union had lied is still riveting to this day. Thirteen days later, when the President announces that the crisis has passed, the stress and wear on his face is evident.

Sadly, we all know how this story ends. The documentary doesn’t delve into conspiracy theories, stating only that shots rang out in Dealey Plaza on November 22, 1963. The film ends with footage of the funeral, the grieving family, and reflections from two other charismatic presidents—Bill Clinton and Ronald Reagan—remembering the vigorous, vibrant President of an earlier, more innocent time.

I would absolutely recommend JFK Remembered: 50 Years Later not only to those who want to recollect the captivating and engaging president of their youth, but to new generations who just don’t understand what all the fuss was about. John F. Kennedy was a communicator and a leader.

But these are just words. Let me just show you.

JFK Remembered: 50 Years Later is available through Warner Home Video individually or as part of the JFK 50th Commemorative Ultimate Collector’s Edition.

Contest: Win Movie Passes to ‘The Last Exorcism Part II’

The NEHW has a contest for horror movie fans living in Boston. Email your name and address to nehwevents@gmail.com for a chance to win one of four admit two movie passes to theaters in the Boston area to see The Last Exorcism Part II. The passes are good for the run of the movie. The movie opens this Friday. The contest goes until the middle of next week.

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Find out more about the movie at its official website, Facebook page or Twitter account:

www.TheLastExorcism2.com

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/thelastexorcism2

Twitter: https://twitter.com/LastExorcism2

On the Road to Two Comic Book Shows

On the Road to Two Comic Book Shows

by Rick Silva

Boston Comic Con 2012

Quick introduction: I’m Rick Silva. I’m a relatively new member of the NEHW, but I’ve been involved in the local convention scene for quite a number of years. These days, most of the conventions I attend are in my capacity as a small press comic book publisher, although I’ve been fortunate enough to have had a couple of prose stories published in the last year or two, and have done panels and readings in that capacity as well.

For Boston Comic Con, my Dandelion Studios comics were sharing a table with Joe McGlone of Fallenmage Productions and his comics. We drove in early Saturday morning, and were shown right to our table by the very well-organized convention staff.

The show was held in one of the main exhibit halls of the Hynes Convention Center in Boston. We parked at the Prudential garage both days, which was pricey. I’d originally thought we could get around some of that cost by validation deals, or by moving the car to the street for part of the show, but those options proved to be too much of a hassle and we ended up paying full price both days. I think I will go back to taking the subway in (which I did for Anime Boston) if I attend this show again.

Photo by Rick Silva.

The show itself was lively and well-attended. There were some incredible cosplayers making the rounds. Star Trek, Star Wars, and Ghostbusters fan groups were set-up where the fans entered and the hallway was crowded with people taking pictures. The Ghostbuster guys even had a giant inflatable Stay-Pufft Marshmallow Man.

We had a steady stream of people stopping by our table, and just about all the local small press comic creators I know were present at the show, so I caught up with a lot of friends, and bought some new comics and mini-comics in between selling my own books.

Joe was thrilled to get a stack of book autographed by iconic horror artist Bernie Wrightson, and I bought a copy of Womanthology as a birthday present for my wife and got it signed and sketched in by eight of the contributing artists.

Photo by Rick Silva.

Boston Comic Con has been growing every year. I didn’t get too much time away from my table, but the guest list was really incredible this year, and the fans seemed to be having a great time shopping and meeting an impressive guest lists of great comic artists.

Maine Comics Arts Festival 2012

The Maine Comics Arts Festival is one of my absolute favorite shows for a bunch of reasons.

First of all, it’s all small-press creators. As much as I love buying older collectible comics, there is something really amazing about a show made up entirely by comic creators and their labors of love.

Organizers Casablanca Comics does a great job of getting the word out, and the show is always well-attended, and a lot of the audience are families discovering small press comics for the first time. It also helps that the price of admission is only $5.

Then there’s the setting. The venue is the Ocean Gateway terminal in Portland, a cruise ship facility that sticks out into Portland harbor. Forget about dimly-lit rooms or cavernous conventions halls. This place has huge windows all the way around and a spectacular view of the harbor.

It’s also in walking distance of restaurants, and for our son, the Maine Narrow Gauge Railroad Museum.

The Maine Comics Arts Festival was the first convention our son attended, at age 2. This year was his third time at the show. He’s old enough to have some input into the plans, and what he wants is a train ride!

Portland is a little over three hours from Cape Cod, so we got on the road around 6 a.m. To make things a bit more challenging, I’d pulled an all-nighter scrambling to put together the newest issue of our mini-comic series Unpopular Species (a science/nature comic about creatures that are, well, less loved). Gynn did much of the driving while I got some much-needed sleep on the way up to Portland. Fortunately, even Boston is quiet traffic-wise early on a Sunday morning, and the trip went smoothly.

We spent the day taking turns selling comics and taking the Kiddo on train rides. Turns out you can ride all day for one price. Kiddo was thrilled. Unpopular Species was a big hit, and we had a really good show in general. The ride home was exhausting, but we got back without incident.

This was the finale to a whole series of Spring conventions we’d done appearances at for the comics. Starting with Conbust at Smith College, we were at Anime Boston, Boston Comic Con, the Rochester New Hampshire Free Comic Book Day festival, the Southcoast Toy and Comic Show, and finally the Maine Comics Arts Festival. Now, we get a couple months break before a major road trip at the end of July to Baltimore for Otakon. See you out on the road!