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.

Doug Bradley Talks about Pinhead, Masks, and Clive Barker

Doug Bradley Talks about Pinhead, Masks, and Clive Barker

By Jason Harris

Doug Bradley

Doug Bradley, best known for the role of Pinhead in the Hellraiser movies, doesn’t think of himself as a horror icon. He jokingly said it sounds like there was a morning where there was a letter on his doorstep stating, “Dear Mr. Bradley, you are now a fully accredited horror icon with a membership card enclosed.”

He credits his appearances at conventions for helping him become known to his fans since he isn’t recognizable with the make-up on.

“I have always said that every actor’s biggest enemy is anonymity.”

Pinhead

He is known more as Pinhead then the character of Lylesburg in Nightbreed.

There’s always an interest in Nightbreed and that interest has been raised recently with the attempt to restore it back to the movie Clive Barker intended to have released in 1990, Bradley said.

Bradley and Barker became friends in high school in Liverpool back in the 60s when they were in a play together. He describes his friend as “the most extraordinary person I’ve met.” He says he “tries not to throw the word genius around lightly,” but he does apply it in Barker’s case.

Bradley said people expect Barker “to be weird and fucked up and sacrificing virgins [and] biting the heads off live chickens. For all I know, he may do all of that,” he jokingly said.

He considers Barker, “very funny, very witty” and a person with an “extraordinary imagination to be able to produce the movies that he has, the short stories, the novels, and his artwork.” He’s “a person with a tremendous sense of the absurd and the ridiculous.”

“For all these decades, it has been a privilege to be close to that process,” Bradley said.

Barker is one of the reasons he turned down portraying Pinhead in the ninth installment of the franchise, Hellraiser: Revelations, which came out last year.

“I didn’t feel like the movie was in anyway, shape, or form a serious attempt to move the franchise forward nor reinvigorate it in any way, shape, or form. I felt it was something of an insult to the franchise, to Clive, to me, to all the people who had worked so hard on the series over the years.”

Bradley hasn’t seen the movie, which had a microscopic budget and a brief shooting schedule, he said. He has heard about the movie from fans and nothing of what he is hearing about it is good, he said.

When he first became Pinhead, it took him five to six hours in the make-up chair, but it was shortened to about three to four hours by the time he made the eighth movie in the franchise. The longest time he was in the make-up for was 18 hours. It all depended on what was needed of him, he said. He could be needed for one scene or for several.

These days he is enjoying just acting and doesn’t have any aspirations to direct.

“I wouldn’t shy away from the possibility of directing, but it’s not something I have a desire to do necessarily.”



Besides acting, he has written a screenplay and a book. The impetus for his book, Behind the Mask of a Horror Actor, “goes back to his relationship with Clive” and how they were always working together for ten years in the theater before Hellraiser.

“We were always using masks one way or another as part of our work. I always had a fascination for it before I came to Pinhead so I guess I just had the ideas in my head …”

When asked about writing an autobiography, he isn’t thinking about writing one because it feels to him if you write one “your life and career are over,” which he feels he is nowhere near that point yet.

“If you are writing your autobiography, you want to make yourself sound as interesting as possible. You want to make your life story as interesting as possible. I don’t know if we’re necessarily capable of telling the truth about ourselves.”

Bradley recently read Lance Henriksen’s autobiography, Not Bad for a Human.

“He has an amazing story to tell particularly in terms of his early life and his journey into the profession. I truly enjoyed reading it.”

Bradley will be attending Rock and Shock this weekend at the DCU Convention Center & The Palladium in Worcester, MA.