On Villainy

The seven deadly sins are Pride, Greed, Lust, Envy, Gluttony, Wrath, and Sloth.

For your villains, pick any two. For your heros, pick one.

The seven splendid virtues are Prudence, Justice, Temperance, Fortitude, Faith, Hope, and Charity.

For your heros, pick any two. For your villains, pick one.

Dr. Doyle's Blog

I’ve written here before about the necessity — in my opinion — of making one’s villains well-rounded characters and not merely evil mustache-twirling sockpuppets. By which I mean granting them their virtues as well as their vices, and giving them friends as well as enemies, and generally treating them with a certain amount of respect even as they go forth to meet their richly deserved ends at the hands of the protagonist of the tale.

I don’t know if what I’m encountering a lot of lately is the start of a disturbing new trend, or just the result of seeing a lot of plain old-fashioned bad writing and worse criticism . . . but readers and writers both seem to be getting more into villains who are evil all the way through, from the flaky top crust of their characterization down to the soggy underbaked bottom. Anything in the line…

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In Which I Visit a Museum

And there see a submarine.

Some years ago, for reasons that matter not to our story, I was driving around northern New Jersey when I saw something by the side of the road.  “By golly,” I said, “that looks like a Holland submarine!”  I pulled over and walked to it.  It was!  Holland boat #2, Fenian Ram.  The precursor of all modern submarines.  In the US Navy, USS Holland (AKA Holland boat #6) was SS-1.

I never saw it again though I looked for it every time I passed through the region.  Then, thanks to the Miracle of the Internet, I decided to search for it and to my joy found that it was now in a more congenial place than rusting away by roadside: Fenian Ram was now an exhibit at the Paterson Museum.

Then I had to wait the opportunity to visit: I’m not in the Greater New York area all that often any more.  So when Doyle and I decided to go to Heliosphere, a plan came together.  Amidst other running-around, a visit to Paterson!

Outside the Paterson Museum

So on Friday last I punched the address (2 Market Street, Paterson, New Jersey) into the naviguesser, and we set off.  After circling the block by Paterson Great Falls (waterpower — the key to America’s early industrial economy!), we came to the site. The museum is located in an old locomotive engine assembly plant, where an old locomotive in the parking lot (“Old 299,” with a surprising Panamanian connection!) was the first clue that we’d come to the right place.

Virtue was rewarded as we found a parking space in the lot right away.  A two buck donation at the door, and we were in!   Various exhibits ranged before us, including Native American, silk production, nursing, Colt firearms, Lou Costello, fire fighting apparatus, and other Patersonian stuff, until, at the far end of one wing, there it was: Fenian Ram.

Fenian Ram

The Ram got its name from the Fenian Brotherhood, which had financed Holland’s experiments.   Holland had noticed that all the navies of the world were going to ironclads after the battle in Hampton Roads back in 1862.  He figured that the way to attack ironclads would be from beneath the sea (a conclusion that the US Navy also reached at the time, and addressed with the building of the AlligatorAlligator, although never commissioned, and never in combat, was later commanded by LT Thomas Selfridge, Jr., a survivor of CSS Virginia‘s attack on USS Cumberland in Hampton Roads ).

In any case, despite the name,  Fenian Ram was not intended to ram its targets: it was armed with a nine-inch dynamite gun (the years immediately post-Civil-War were great ones for naval innovation).  Fenian Ram never operated as the Fenians intended, to destroy the Royal Navy and free Ireland.  Rather than pay for it, they hijacked it one night, then made an important discovery: none of them knew how to operate it, and Holland refused to tell them.  So the Ram remained in the USA, passing from hither to yon, then back to its birthplace in New Jersey.

Holland boat #1

Also in the museum, beside Fenian Ram, is Holland boat #1, which he built as proof-of-concept.  When he was done with it, Holland removed everything salvageable and scuttled his boat #1 in the Passaic River.  Holland boat #1 was raised in 1927, at which time, allegedly, a local sandwich shop operator renamed his grinders  “submarine sandwiches,” and the name stuck.





We left the museum, and continued on our Major André tour, of which more in a later post.

Fenian Ram with some very nice radio-controlled ship-and-sub scale models

Fenian Ram stern

Fenian Ram bow.

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Red Mike at the Movies: Hereditary

Hereditary Movie Poster So this was one of a couple of movies I’d intended to see last year.

For reasons I’ll not go into here I watched a lot of movies in theaters last year.  And I will, eventually, review them all.  But for right now, I saw the trailer for this one, but didn’t see it (despite checking on-line to find out if there was anywhere in the state of New Hampshire where it was showing).

Well, what with this and that, even after it came out on video last fall I didn’t get around to seeing it until just now.  Which means that I could now read the reviews of the movie.  (Under the rules of The Movie Game I’m not allowed to read reviews until after I’ve seen the show.)

Imagine my surprise on learning how many critics loved the movie.

Here’s my take on this film:

  • Unreliable narrator is unreliable.
  • This is why IEA* was invented.
  • 9-1-1 is there for a reason.

Also, there was an event early on in the film (by “early on” I mean an hour in — this was one long puppy) which desuspended my disbelief in a big way.

*Involuntary Emergency Admission


When you have a traumatic decapitation by smacking your head into a phone pole at 80 mph, you don’t get a nice, discrete, round, still-recognizable head lying by the side of the road. You get a debris field covering about ninety square feet with no bit bigger than about a half-inch on a side.  Ask me how I know.  Or, better still, don’t.


So, what we get is a family drama requiring you to spend two hours with four people who are so basically unpleasant that you wouldn’t want to spend five minutes with them.  Yes, mental health is a serious problem.  Yes, mental health is the thing we do worst in modern medicine.  But I’m not sure this is the way to bring it to the public consciousness.

Let’s see: what did I like?  The miniature rooms were wonderful.  I looked through the credits to see if the model maker had a credit (the answer is yes, three people).  Also, the husband, Steve (played by Gabriel Byrne), did a great job of portraying the ground-down look of someone living with a chronically-ill person.

Final score:  I put this one in the same bucket as Cabin Fever.  The bucket labeled “nice try.”


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Martin Van of Kinderhook

Today is the first day of our ramble down to New York for Heliosphere.  So, en passant, we visited Lindenwald, Martin Van Buren’s home in Kinderhook, NY.  Van Buren had  been Jackson’s Vice President; he went on to a term of his own in 1836.  The Little Magician was the first US president who had no military experience, and he is so far the only US president who didn’t speak English as his native tongue (he spoke Dutch).

Lindenwald Gatehouse Foundation

Lindenwald Gatehouse Foundation

Lindenwald, Martin Van Buren's home in Kinderhook.

Lindenwald, Martin Van Buren’s home in Kinderhook.

As people who followed the Whig songbook posts I put up in 2016 will recall, Van Buren was the Whigs’ bête noire in 1844 (until he lost the nomination on the 9th ballot to James K. Polk).  Van Buren went on to a third-party run in 1848 on the Free Soil ticket, a move that split the Democratic vote and put the buffoonish Zachary Taylor into the White House.


So there I stood on a chilly April afternoon and sang a Van Buren song from 1840:

Rockabye baby, daddy’s a Whig,
When he comes home hard cider he’ll swig.
When he has swug he’ll fall in a stew,
And down will come Tyler and Tippecanoe.

To beguile the tedium of the journey we listened to some of The Bowery Boys’ podcasts on New York history.

Breakfast was at the Red Arrow Diner in Concord, NH.   Dinner was at Amici’s in Nyack, a place that looks like a hole-in-the-wall pizza joint between a dry cleaner and the Off-Track Betting parlor in a strip mall, which it is, but also has a very nice full Italian restaurant in the back room.

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It’s That Time Again

Dr. Doyle's Blog

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Yes, it’s time for my annual Springtime Services Sale!

From now through April 21, 2019 (that’s Easter Sunday, for those of you who celebrate), all edits on novel-length manuscripts will be 30% off the regular price. You can purchase an edit now to be redeemed at a later date of your choice, or you can buy an edit for a friend as a gift.

For more information, you can go to my about page.

My winter electric bill will thank you.

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Free Magic Show: Boston

Jim Macdonald, Magician


The SAM Assembly 9 “Best of Boston” contest will be held Wednesday, April 10th at the Puppet Showplace Theater, 32 Station St., Brookline, at 7:30 PM.  There is no charge for this performance.

Note that the starting time is a bit earlier than usual  because we have eight contestants participating, and we plan to finish voting and present the awards by 9:30.  Contestants include (not necessarily in this order):


  • Joseph Caulfield (Lord BlackSword)
  • James D. Macdonald
  • Scott Galbraith
  • Mike Lee
  • Kevin Butler
  • Eddie Gardner
  • Duncan Miller
  • Markus Steelgrave

Each contestant will present an 8-12 minute routine of their choice.

Each audience member will receive a ballot and can vote for up to three
contestants.  The top three vote recipients will be the contest winners.

Duncan Miller
Secretary, SAM Assembly #9

For my part, I intend to present “Pure Jennie, the Moonshiner’s Daughter; or, The Vexations of Vice,” the routine that I did to great applause in the “It’s Vaudeville!” show.

[Note: It’s Vaudeville will return on September 7th to the Newport Opera House in Newport, NH.]


[UPDATE 12APR19]:  I won third place, with a trophy.

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What We’re Planning

Dr. Doyle's Blog

(Unless something horrible and unexpected leaps out of the bushes at us beforehand — which has, alas, been known to happen.)

Anyway. We’re going down to be attending the Heliosphere sf/fantasy convention in Tarrytown, NY, and while we’re at it we’re going to be tacking a day or so onto the trip to do what Jim Macdonald is referring to as The Major Andre Tour. All the sites associated with the unfortunate entanglement of Major John Andre (even his enemies liked him) with Benedict Arnold (even his friends thought he was a dick) are within a few miles of each other in the nearby area, so it seemed like an opportunity not to be missed.

Jim will undoubtedly be writing it all up for his blog when we’re done, so keep watching this space (or his space) for details.

We’ll be doing the Tour on the Friday before Heliosphere, working…

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Merrimack Crimeline Show

Merrimack Crimeline

  APRIL 13, 2019



11th Annual





MPD – K9

Granite State Magicians


10 AM thru 2 PM

$5 PER PERSON, $2.50 UNDER 12


American Legion Post 98, 43 Baboosic Lake Rd, Merrimack, NH

MPD “Pluto” K-9 Demonstration at noon!





Merrimack Police Department

For more information contact Judy Eriksen,   (603) 424-8453 (tickets at the door)

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Talk About Your Toxic Work Environments

Reasons to avoid Twitter, #5890….

Dr. Doyle's Blog

Back when I was first writing for publication, Jim Macdonald and I wrote a number of YA novels, mostly for book packagers (that was one of the entry points back then, before packagers turned into high-profile wheeler-dealers and were instead mostly borderline sleazy providers of work-for-hire content to publishers who were too dainty to make such deals themselves.) Some of the stuff we did I’m still quite proud of; and all of it was the best we could provide given the sometimes-weird constraints we had to work under.

But my golly, I’m glad I’m not working in that end of the business right now. We’ve come to a place where a pre-publication social-media campaign can — shall we say, bully? yes, we shall — bully an up-and-coming author into withdrawing her own book before it can be published. And that sort of thing can happen more than once.

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Featuring My Glorious Sister

Sunday, March 17th, 3:00 pm Nichols Concert Hall 1490 Chicago Avenue, Evanston
Music Institute of Chicago


Joseph Haydn’s “The Creation”
for soloists, choir, and chamber ensemble
adapted by D. Wallenberg

Sunday, March 17th, 3:00 pm

Nichols Concert Hall
1490 Chicago Avenue, Evanston, IL

$15 adults | $10 seniors | $7 students


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