|The Lawrence of Arabia connection
I often wonder if my fascination with foreign intrigue might be inherited: I'm two degrees of separation from T.E. Lawrence, Field-Marshall Viscount E.E.H. Allenby, and any number of intelligence poobahs in Whitehall and the War Office during the pre-WWI era.
My maternal grandfather, Tovmas Melik Kalo ter Khaldaei¹, was a dragoman² for the British legation in Anatolia, then the British Pro-consul for Asia Minor. Later Grandfather was a British intelligence operative in the heart of the Ottoman Empire during the run-up to the Great War. Later still, after escaping from Turkish Armenia to Egypt, the Melik was an intelligence analyst and debriefer with the British army, working just a few doors down from Lawrence at the British Intelligence Office in Cairo's Savoy Hotel. Post-war he represented Armenia at the London Conference.
The correspondence between Field-Marshall Allenby and Tovmas Melik Kalo is in the British Archives at Kew in London.
Tovmas Melik Kalo ter Khaldaei
The Nixon/Watergate connection
There are a number of covert electronics in The Last Days of Las Vegas, not my first experience with such stuff. Early in the Watergate scandal (and prior to the revelations of Richard Nixon's involvement in the cover-up), after running the president's public comments through a Voice Stress Analyzer, I was among the first to offer a graphic indication that specific areas of the president's spoken denials were false.
And just recently I discovered a very sophisticated surveillance bug that the Feds left in the wall of my home some time before I purchased it. The thing is smaller than a postage stamp and has a microphone about half as large as a grain of rice.
The Firearms connection
I'm skilled with rifle, carbine, subgun, and in tactical pistolcraft, having trained intensively with Jim Cirillo of NYPD's Stakeout Unit (receiving a 92% Certificate), and having been on "fun scoots and shoots" with my cousin's SpecOp team, working hostage rescues and siege-house approaches while my cousin's sapper threw flash-bangs to keep us on our toes. (My cousin was a Special Operations Team Leader in the Rangers . . . as well as a HALO jumper and a serious nut case. He base-jumpedamong many many othersthe Arco Towers in downtown L.A. [three times], the Kirkeby Building in Westwood, the Vincent Thomas bridge, and a number of high spans in South East Asia.)
I think you'll find that the shooting episodes in The Last Days of Las Vegasincluding the tachypsychia and near-heart-attack oneare more reality-based than the gunfights you'll read in any other adventure fiction. And I know of no other adventure novel in which suppressed pistol shots are so clearly or vividly described. (Suppressed gunfire is not silent, nor does it make that funny "pffsshfft" noise you hear in the movies.)
I admit to having a semi-auto Benelli, with an EPC red-dot sight, which can put sabot slugs into 3.75" groups at 25 yardsbut am not too crazy about shotguns. They beat hell out of my shoulder.
The Iraq connection
My grandfather was also a friend of the Bedrkhan Clan of Bohton Kurds in Anatolia. Many of the Bedrkhani were exiled, and the extended Barzani family of the Bedrkhan settled in what is now the Kurdish Autonomous Region of Northern Iraq. Massoud Barzani is currently President of Iraq's KAR.
The European connection
In the The Last Days of Las Vegas my interest in Europe is quite obvious, from Murmansk south to Odessa, thence to Lisbon.
Previously, my primary focus was on Eastern Europe: For 20 years I've been a contributor to the Polish Institute and Sikorski Museum in London. The Institute and Museum, situated in Princes Gate across from Hyde Park, is the repository for the archives of Poland's WWII Government in Exile, the Polish Underground State, and the AK resistance (which at one point captured a V-2 Rocket, dismantled it, and sent it off to London for analysis).
|¹Tovmas Melik Kalo ter Khaldaei translates literally as "Thomas, Prince of the Kalo Clan of the Khaldaei people." In real terms however, "Melik"though "Prince" in Armenianshould more correctly be transliterated as "Clan Chieftain," similar to the Highland Scots. He later Anglicized his name to "K. M. Thomas." Of interest to historians are Xenophon's comments about the Melik's ancestors (the "Khaldaei" or "Chaldaei") in Anabasisnot to be confused with the Chaldees of Ur, or the Chaldeans who couldn't interpret the writing on the wall for Belshazzar in the Book of Daniel, 5-vii.
²Dragoman multi-lingual translator. Grandfather was fluent in English, Armenian, Kurdish, and Turkish; and was conversant in Zazaki, Arabic, and Farsi.
I was once asked by a writers' agent to " . . . briefly identify yourself." Hello?
Briefly identify myself. I looked back at my life and asked "Which wonderful episode briefly identifies me?"
How about when I was nine and got cashiered from the Cub Scouts for punching out the Den Mother's son? The DM's son was a nasty rat, and the other Cubs thought I did a pretty good job of it, better than any of my wood-burning stuff. They felt that I should have gotten a Merit Badge for the project.
Or the time I was photographing Nelson bighorn sheep and slipped and rolled about 70 or 80 meters down a mountainside, clutching the camera to my gut and bruising various body parts to protect the lens.
Or how I dropped out of college to bum around the country, driving trucks and reading nearly the entire Penguin paperback classics library from Gilgamesh to The Century's Poetry, and all of the Modern Library stuff I could get my hands on, and all of Bill Saroyan and Bill Faulkner and Robby Jeffers and Sterne and Voltaire and Huxley and Waugh and Mencken and e e and dos and Hem and Bunny Wilson and Angus Wilson and everyone else and all of it with a raging hunger, as though I had a great cavernous emptiness which only a whole warehouse of books could fillnovels, poems, ideas, language!moulding me finally into a real person.
Or the time a stickup artist shoved a gun in my ribs and I lost my temper and took the gun away.
Or making love (I think it was love) when I was about 17 or 18 in an MG-TC, and getting a terrible backache from the parking brake lever.
Or pulling that Guatemalteca maid out of David and Jane Green's swimming pool and performing CPR on what I quickly learned was a corpse when she sent a Vesuvius of vomit into my face. (Green, the British film director, was my across-the-street neighbor in Laurel Canyon while in LA on a movie assignment.)
Or looking after the then-12-year-old Winny (Winthrop Paul) Rockefeller while Bobo and Hèléne went off to lunch at the Polo Lounge.
Or wheeling my '57 300-SL Mercedes Gullwing up the Turner Turnpike in Oklahoma at a little over 150 mph.
Or looking after my darling, dying Hèléne at home; she with emphysema and a gathering dementia because emphysema robs the brain of oxygen and me with the burning thought that torture would be too kind for the tobacco-company moguls who'd lied and profited from selling this addictive poison, all of them comfortable and raking in billions while I changed Hèléne's diapers every four hours and watched the most beautiful and funny woman ever wither into nothing.
Or the time I rescued Rudolf Friml's widow Kay from a broken-down airport limo at the Wonderland School, where Wonderland Ave forks off of Lookout Mountain in Laurel Canyon, and Kay giving me a tour of her Appian Way home where I saw the piano on which Friml had composed his operettas (the piano soon to be shipped to a museum in Prague), along with a wall covered with his first edition sheet music, some illustrated by Muchaand even a few of the original Muchas.
Or the night I declined to rescue King Umberto of Italy from my pal Sonny Tufts during a private post-Royal-Ball party at the Treffingers' home in Bel Air, formerly the mansion of Ernst Lubitsch. Ramona Treffinger thought Sonny was drunk and haranguing Umberto andsince I was one of the few people who respected and genuinely liked Sonnyshe told me to go pull him away from Umberto. Fact is, Sonny and Umberto were speaking Italian to each other and Umberto looked as though he was having a high old time, so I let it drop. Later I said to Sonny, "I didn't know you spoke Italian," and Sonny said he didn't. He'd studied Opera at Yale and had actually auditioned for the Met before he went to the legit stage, and he and Umbertoalso an opera buffwere throwing lines from Aïda at each other. And for Umberto it was probably the best part of his entire visit.
Or that party at Alfredo de la Vega's where my darling Hèléne got a little squiffed and was nattering on and on and Cliff Robertson stopped her with, "Hèléne, darling . . . even if I didn't agree with you, I wouldn't dream of disagreeing with you," and the Jack Daniel's I'd been drinking came up my nose.
Or the time I worked as a flak for the show-biz publicist Glenn Rose, handling Ella Fitzgerald, Henry Mancini, Ray Stark, and George Shearing (whom I chauffed around to interviews).
Or the time, at around 13,000 ft elevation in the East Sierra, I calmed my backpacking buddiesa couple of guys from Philly and both of them first-timers at altitudewhen a brown bear came nudging our little three-man search-and-rescue tent, this after a spectacular thunder-head sunset that settled behind the glacial cirque like a kaleidoscope on LSD. And the sunset after a tough, 12-mile-long up-hill from Horseshoe Meadow (8,500 ft elevation), with my pal Larry zoning out from hypoxia about two miles shy of our Cottonwood Lakes destination, where we finally popped the tent and began throwing percogesic into Larry like fish into a seal.
Or when I was going broke after my ad agency was losing clients right and left, and I wrote The Hungarian Game, which sold about 520,000 copies in 6 languages and 31 counties.
Or the jobs I've held aside from my brief stint with Glenn: At 6 major ad agencies in Chicago, San Diego, and Los Angeles; Driving semis over-the-road for Schneider National; The major domo of Jack Dennison's, a Sunset Strip nightclub, when I was only 20, and not old enough to legally drink in the joint; Running a gravimeter in search of oil shale for Sweet Geophysical; Setting mosaic tile for a wonderful guy, Hans Scharff, who shared tales about pre-war South Africa and about his experiences as an intell officer in the Luftwaffe; As the accountant for a major interlocking real estate enterprise.
Or the time that my pals the Connallys and the Petrettis and I backpacked into Los Padres mountains, then rock-climbed up to the needle above Devil's Narrows to bury Bill Connally's ashes, and Crazy Bob Wotzizname packing an ice chest loaded with a case of Budweiser as an emergency rehydration system for the slog in. And Cheryl Connally setting the cuffs of her Levi's on fire when she backed too close to this massive blaze that the guys had made (with enough logs to build a cabin) in the fire pit, Cheryl a bit gone from the bottle of Wild Turkey that was being passed around. But this was after we'd eaten a huge batch of Fettucini Alfredo I'd cooked up in the giant stock-pot I'd packed inmy cousin-in-law Tommy Bergin's recipe with massive quantities of butter and half-and-halfalong with plenty of hot Italian sausage and three bottles of zinfandel, similarly packed in by me.
I imagine that somewhere in the above there's an episode or two that might briefly identify me.
© Roy Hayes