A. J. Cronin, Master Storyteller

Do you have a favorite author? One whose books have been on your shelf for a long time? One that you’ve re-read several times? One that rekindles your enthusiasm for writing?

 A.J. Cronin, considered one of the greatest storytellers of the twentieth century, and an early favorite of mine, has adorned my bookcase since the tenth grade. I was recently moved to relive Cronin’s “The Northern Light.”

I love stories. I love to hear them, read them, tell them, and write them. I enjoy kind words from friends and reviewers who have singled out my storytelling, in both my memoir and my novel, as a highlight of my work. They have moved me to revisit Cronin.

I read him differently now. For inspiration, yes, but I also find myself studying his, plot, structure, language, character development, and story line. In a broad sense, I want to know what it is about A. J. Cronin’s writing that makes me always say, “There’s a book I really enjoyed.” It could have been “Keys of the Kingdom,” “the Citadel,” “The Green Years,” or “Song of Sixpence.” All great books of the Scottish Doctor, and all still on my shelves. “The Green Years” is next for me–a wonderful story of what grandfathers are for.

So, writers—do you have a favorite author you read for inspiration? Maybe a different author for different genres? How has their writing influenced you or helped you improve your craft?

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The Awakening Spring

I promise this first blog of my revised website will say nothing about COVID-19.

You’ve read and heard enough about that without my take on it.

I’m unable to enjoy a walk on the Pitt-Bradford Trail much anymore, but when I did, I enjoyed watching the war of the seasons unfold. I’m a few weeks late with this, but here’s my thoughts on the Awakening Spring.

A dark oasis of spiked pines pokes above the sea of maples and poplars on the surrounding hills. The subtle hues of green will soon be ocean swells protecting the valley like a comforter. Stark grey sticks reach skyward, straining to be like their green sisters, to remind us of a harsh winter not long gone. Small openings offer a glimpse of flowering cherry and apple trees; they are teasers for the summer yet to come.

frog in a pond

I sit awhile in the gazebo. Fallen trees that did not survive the winter lie beneath the water of a shallow pond like underwater sea serpents. A twiggy branch stretches above the water, a precarious perch for chickadees. A slab of trunk breaks the surface, a sun porch for turtles and frogs.

Daffodils and Dandelions

I cheer for a cluster of daffodils, their yellow stars standing tall, lording it over the dandelions, which have sent but three scouts looking for spring on the soccer field. Hurray for the daffodils!
Alas, within a week, I fear the brave daffodils have lost the battle, reduced to furled rusty blobs. A vast horde of bad boy dandelions, now in formation on the east end of the soccer field, stand ready to advance to their brother scouts scattered the length of the field. The wars go on.
But they know not what awaits them–the grim reaper, John Deere, who in another week will slay them by the thousands. Ha! Revenge.

The Book is Here

Blank bookcover with clipping path Now Available in Paperback and Kindle at Amazon.com 

As those who have been following chapter excerpts on my blog know, these memoirs covers my Coast Guard Career from Academy days to retirement. I am proud to share these back of the book blurbs.

“In my experience, the best way to learn something is to find a teacher who blends historical facts with the art of story-telling. Dick Marcott proves he is the master in “The View from the Rigging”. Those of us who paralleled his professional life, can smile often and remember our own experiences as Dick reviews his Coast Guard career. Others are introduced to the extraordinary blend of the professional and personal commitment of both the service member and the family of those who dedicate themselves to public service in the uniform of their country. It’s a story told well and highlighted with very real moments of serious accomplishment at work and at home. We should all be so fortunate to have such stories to tell our grandchildren.”

James M. Loy ADM, U. S. Coast Guard (Retired) Commandant, 1998-2002

 “I never cease to be amazed at what I learn from Captain Marcott’s memoirs of a fascinating life I never knew existed. The stories are a tribute to his service that he sells with beautiful detail, humor, and pathos.

Dani Weber, Asst. Prof. of English, SUNY Sullivan

“If you’ve ever been to sea, you’ll enjoy my friend Dick Marcott’s tales of Coast Guard Duty. If you haven’t, this book might count as your first deployment.”

David Poyer, author of TIPPING POINT and ONSLAUGHT

The Colonel’s War

My beautiful picture
Loading the LCM for Kim Bay crossing

The lingering breeze from last night’s storm threatened to spill the fog from Kin Bay onto the station. Petty officer first class Smith rapped once on my office screen door.
“We’re good to go, sir. I just came from the beach. It’s damned foggy and the bay is still moving around a good bit, but I don’t think we’ll have a problem.”
“Thanks, Smith, I’ll be ready to roll in 10.” I had considered canceling the routine supply run, but the weather report called for clearing, and the wind was expected to die down, so getting back from the main Island of Okinawa in the afternoon was not going to be a problem. Smith was an experienced LCM coxswain, and I had great confidence in him.

The M boat was bobbing a bit, even in our protected cove, as I backed the jeep up the ramp and into position in front of our truck. Smith brought the ramp up, backed out expertly, made the pivot and headed out into the bay. The choppy waves pounded the flat ramp like a hammer trying to stop our forward motion. Visibility was less than a two hundred yards.
Half way into the seven mile crossing, an offshore breeze from the main island joined forces with the rising sun to lift the veil of fog. The coxswain called out, “Sir, we’ve got a problem here!”
I got out of the jeep, moved aft to climb the ladder leading to the cockpit. Before I got to the top I could clearly see “the problem.” We had blindly moved into the middle of a joint military exercise. We were surrounded by Amphibious Attack Transports, (APA’s), with their brood of LCVP’s and LCM’s circling them, like ducklings clinging to their mothers, their assault troops at the ready. The assault task force included a few Navy destroyer escorts and minesweepers.

Our uninvited and unexpected black Coast guard utility vessel was the ugly duckling in the middle of a gray Pacific Fleet Task Force! I envisioned Jeff Chandler, in the movie Away All Boats, on the wing of the command ship, all squinty eyed and strong jawed, preparing to give the signal to attack.

I grabbed the binoculars, and scanned the beach. A hazy picture of bleachers filled with military observers emerged in the thinning fog. There was at least one general’s flag flying along with two foreign ensigns. It was too late now.
“Smith, take us in slowly, get us unto the beach so we can get the hell out of the way. Then you go back to the station and I’ll call on land line to set up a pick-up time. Think you can hold it steady in this surf?”
“Yes, sir. It’s not too bad; we can off-load OK.”
The ramp splashed onto the beach, the stern rose and fell with the wavelets, but Smith held us steady with his skillful use of engines and rudder. A two foot wide coil of wire, slapping in the surf about 3 feet in front of our ramp, was not a welcome mat. I moved to the top of the ramp. From the front of the bleachers about 50 yards to the right I saw a Marine Corps lieutenant colonel, direct from central casting, a cigar stub in his mouth, sleeves rolled up. He was unperturbed by the sloshing water that soaked his pants half way up his calf. His combat boots cut angry deep divots in the wet sand. He stopped in front of our ramp. “Who the hell are you and where the hell did you come from?” He was steaming.
“Sir, I’m Lieutenant (JG) Marcott, CO of the Coast Guard Loran station on Ikeshima,” I saluted sharply and pointed toward the island. “Sir, I’m sorry to break up the exercises, but we received no message traffic about this. Clearly we would have never made our supply run today had I known.”
“I don’t give a damn about that,” he bellowed, “What I’m pissed about is we’ve held up this exercise for over an hour because the God damned Navy says it’s still too rough in here to land their boats!!” (His language throughout this exchange was a little more Marine-like.)
As soon as the words were out of my mouth, I knew I shouldn’t have said them. “Well sir, we’re pretty serious about our run—we’re after bread, milk and letters from home!”
I gulped then waited for what seemed an eternity. The colonel’s icy stare burned holes into my head, then suddenly he turned toward the beach and ordered, “Someone—anyone, cut this damned wire and clear a way for this man across the beach—Now! Then tell the Navy to get this damned show on the road!” Did I detect a slight smile?
I wasted no time getting across the beach, and up the road, passing units of the “red army” dug in, and waiting for the amphibious assault of the “blue army.” The Colonel’s war was about to begin.