Rush Review – The 80’s: “Signals” and “Grace Under Pressure”

Author’s Note: This article originally appeared on another website I write for, That Hashtag Show, on 8 Feb.

Signals – 1982

Signals would be Rush’s 9th studio album and follow-up to the monumental success of Moving Pictures only a year prior. It would go gold and platinum status in November 1982, only two months after release. The album would reach #10 on Billboard. It found greater success in the UK Albums Charts, reaching #3. Those numbers showed Rush could survive as prog-rock giants when prog-rock wasn’t cool anymore. They learned how to be themselves and still be commercial radio-friendly, and delight fans all at once.

“…with Signals, we wanted to get a more angular sound, where everything had its place and there was a little more perspective to all the instruments. The focus was not so much on the guitar being ‘here’ and the drums being ‘there.’ It was a little more spread out in different percentages. So that took a bit of experimenting, which meant more time in the studio.”

Alex Lifeson
Rush in the 80's
Lifeson and Lee – Rush in the 80’s

Geddy Lee would say that they based the whole Signals album on communication, and it wouldn’t be the last time they would use this concept. 1996’s Test for Echo would also center on a communication theme.

“It’s something that comes from maturity and having been through the whole techno side of things. We’ve played in these weird times and made all these big points that we’ve wanted to make. Now it seems there’s a bigger concern for communication, and that’s what Signals is all about.”

Geddy Lee

So let’s dig in and see what it was they are trying to communicate.

Signals: Track 1 – Subdivisions

A synth-heavy example of 80’s Rush about the need of youth to fit in and the boxes we’re all supposed to neatly fit into. It was a radio hit that remained a staple of Rush’s live shows hereafter. In fact, the synthesizer would graduate from backing sound to main instrument on this whole album, and on Subdivisions, it really makes the whole tune.

The hook is catchy and the guitar work is solid, as usual. If you stop to listen closely, the lyrics hit heavy into the psychology of a teen’s need to have fun and damn the consequences of said fun. So like this song and conform, or be cast out. Your choice.

Signals: Track 2 – The Analog Kid

This song hearkens back to Rush’s rock beginnings and still brings in the sound of new wave 80’s in the chorus. The lyrics here are such a call back for every kid (back when they went outside) and daydreamed of a girl they had a crush on.

Peart first presented the lyrics of this upbeat prog-rock classic to the Lee aboard a boat down in the The Caribbean, and it would inspire a comic book character. The 2004 comic Common Grounds, written by Troy Hickman featured two characters, Digital Man and The Analog Kid, both based on songs from this album.

Signals: Track 3 – Chemistry

One of the last songs that all three band members would contribute on lyrics, Chemistry was written in parts by all of three of them. Lee and Lifeson wrote the concept and title, then presented a rough draft for The Professor to shine up.

Then the story goes that the music was written by each of them while apart from each other, making the title all the more ironic. They each took control of the part of the instrument they played. Lee would write the keyboard melody, Lifeson penned the guitar riffs, and Peart wrote the drum line. If ever there was an example of divine music chemistry, this trio is it.

Signals: Track 4 – Digital Man

The second half of the Common Grounds comic dynamic duo, Digital Man sports a moderate reggae beat and super-geeky lyrics. Despite all that, I just couldn’t get into this song. All the beats are tight, and the hook is catchy, but it feels a little nonsensical to me.

This is one I wish they had just left instrumental. I’m likely in the minority on this tune, but I can see how Producer Terry Brown felt. He didn’t want to cut this track and it eventually led to a creative split with the long-time Rush collaborator. However, fans love it anyway!

Signals: Track 5 – The Weapon

The Weapon is part II of the four-part Fear song that plays out over four different albums. Its another synth-heavy rocker meshing with the sound of the early 80’s. This song, to me, sounds like it could be lifted both lyrically and musically right out of the TRON soundtrack.

As with all four parts of Fear, it’s better if you listen to them back to back. They make more sense together than alone. And you’ll have a hard time convincing me it wasn’t done like this on purpose; a way to make one of their epic long-running-time tracks and still keep the album radio short-song friendly.

Signals: Track 6 – New World Man

New World Man became the surprise hit single of the album. It climbed to #22 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart for three weeks after release and remains their highest-charting U.S. single. That’s pretty dang slick for a song that was written and recorded on one day as a filler track to keep both sides of the cassette at the correct time length! It’s got a good hook, poignant flawed-hero lyrics, and gives the listener an urge to air-drum, air-bass, and air-guitar all at once.

“He’s not concerned with yesterday / He knows constant change is here today / He’s noble enough to know what’s right / But weak enough not to choose it / He’s wise enough to win the world / But fool enough to lose it”

New World Man lyrics

Deep and awesome lyrical stuff!

Signals: Track 7 – Losing It

This excellent track jumps all over the Rush repertoire. Quick-step drums, ballad-type lyrics that drag right out of Hemingway, hazy guitar effects and melodic keyboards galore. Oh, toss in a little electric violin for good measure.

It’s rare guests appear on a Rush track, but Ben Mink from FM wields his bow and builds this track a haunting background riff. Sadly, this would be the only Rush track never performed live in concert until the R40 Tour some 30-years later. The lyrics paint a darker outlook than most Rush tunes, but it works here. I particularly love this one:

Some are born to move the world / To live their fantasies / But most of us just dream about / The things we’d like to be

Losing It lyrics

A sobering reminder… get out there and chase those dreams people!

Signals: Track 8 – Countdown

Yes! Rush and spaceships again! This time, however, the spaceship wasn’t fantasy. Rush went to Orlando in my home state of Florida to witness the launch of the Space Shuttle Columbia back in 1981. On a clear day, you could see the launch from across the state, easily over 100 miles away. It was a spectacle of my youth immortalized in this song and I’ll never forget it.

Having witnessed several shuttle launches myself back when I lived there, this song evokes some of the best times I had as a kid visiting Cocoa Beach on the weekend of a launch, camping with my dad and uncle. The whole tune tickles the space nerd inside me and I love it. Bonus points for the actual audio backing track from the Columbia launch. God, I miss the U.S. space program!

Venting vapours, like the breath of a sleeping white dragon…

On a scale of 1 to 10 (10 being the best)…

I give Signals a 9 out of 10. It’s hard to beat early 80’s Rush. Signals is not Moving Pictures, but it’s a solid follow-up. Across all eight tracks, it’s modernized Rush but still has the rock essence fans know and love them for. If there was a complaint from me, it would be the lack of solos. I love hearing Lifeson shred a fretboard. Signals, however, keeps him more in the rhythm section than forefront. That’s what makes him such an awesome guitarist though; he still makes his presence known in texture rather than substance. One standout feature that shines through is the bass riffs. They are strong throughout, showing the world why Geddy Lee is ranked by Rolling Stone magazine in the top-10 bassists of all time.

Click the next page for the review of 1984’s Grace Under Pressure!

Rush Review – The 80’s: “Permanent Waves” & “Moving Pictures”

Author’s Note: This article originally appeared on another website I write for, That Hashtag Show, on January 30th, 2020

Permanent Waves – Released in 1980

Rush smashed into the next decade with a new radio-friendly concept on the 1980 release Permanent Waves. This album, and the one behind it, are in this writer’s opinion, peak Rush. The near-perfect blend of rock-and-roll with synthesizer sounds would propel Rush’s music into the 20th century and beyond.

What made this album uniquely different was the change in songs to make them more playable on radio. To find out why this was significant, I asked a friend who’s in the business:

“Sometimes a listener’s attention span doesn’t last long enough over the radio to handle a longer songs. The long songs are great, but tough for a radio format. Three to four minutes is good for the listener, for the station, and for the other artists being played during the show. Remember, a radio show is exactly that, a show. The programming needs to be in shorter parts to maintain enough variety.”

Matthew Jackson, from Afternoons with Matthew Jackson on Whiskey Country 105.1-FM, Bowman Media Company

Somewhere along their travels, Rush must have received a similar revelation from an industry insider. They didn’t fully submit to the commercial gods, as three tracks on this cut pass the 5-minute mark, but listeners and fans loved it, anyway. Permanent Waves went Gold in two months, then Platinum a few years later and made it to #4 on the Billboard 200. Let’s dissect and find out why.

Rush Permanent Waves: Track 1 – The Spirit of the Radio

The first track on this album registers as my 2nd all-time favorite Rush song. The Spirit of the Radio encompasses everything I love about this band. It has an opening shred that demands your attention, Neil Peart’s amazing and complex drumming, sharp lyrics and an overall beat that commands you bob along. Oh and toss in a little reggae beat for good measure! The longevity of this hit is nothing short of remarkable. It still rocks radios to this day.

“We’ve always played around with reggae in the studio and we used to do a reggae intro to Working Man onstage, so when it came to doing Spirit Of Radio we just thought we’d do the reggae bit to make us smile and have a little fun.”

Alex Lifeson

This is one of those 10-or-so songs that is immediately identifiable even to part-time fans. If you like good rock-and-roll, you’ll never flip the dial until this song ends. Those that do are filthy, heartless, music-hating animals!

Permanent Waves: Track 2 – Freewill

What can you say about this one other than it’s awesome from start to finish. Freewill again combines deep, thought-provoking lyrics overlaid atop slick guitar and bass riffs and making this another lasting Rush staple. It’s hard to overshadow the drums of Neil Peart, but on this song, the string work of Geddy Lee and Alex Lifeson is nearly flawless.

Sonnets like, “A planet of playthings / we dance on the strings / of powers we cannot perceive“, and “If you choose not to decide / you still have made a choice.” I’ve pulled that gem out on my kids when they get that I’m-giving-up-can’t-win attitude. Those of you who are parents know what I’m talking about. These lyrics made me look like a psychological genius to them!

Rush Permanent Waves: Track 3 – Jacob’s Ladder

One of Rush’s shorter and final rocking epics, but an epic song none-the-less. Jacob’s Ladder is largely instrumental and tells the story of the battle between storm clouds and sunshine, taking a page from the success of The Trees.

Hear me out now—you don’t have to be chemically enhanced to hear Lifeson’s growling guitar work and picture a wicked storm gathering that soon bursts into a rage. That is, until the synthesizer takes over with a new time signature and fills in when the sunlight quells the storm. The closing minutes just showcase why we love this band and all their nerdy greatness.

Permanent Waves: Track 4 – Entre Nous

An adverb translated as “between ourselves; privately”, Entre Nous is a beautiful upbeat song about love and human connection. Leave it to Neil Peart to find a way to marry science fiction to a love song, but he did. And it sounds great. This is one with a rocking beat, but the lyrics steal the show with the hook:

“Just between us / I think it’s time for us to recognize / The differences we sometimes fear to show / Just between us / I think it’s time for us to realize / The spaces in between / Leave room for you and I to grow”

Entre Nous by Rush

Rush Permanent Waves: Track 5 – Different Strings

This is a great, slower, almost-bluesy piece that fits a similar mold to Tears from 2112. The lyrics feel like fantasy to start with, but if you pay attention, it slowly reveals this is a song about two people that aren’t really getting along much anymore. “Different hearts / beat on different strings” can sum up the result of a lot of broken relationships. Only fault is I wish they would have drawn out Lifeson’s outro. That weeping guitar is such sweet music. Deep stuff put to a beautiful tune. I love it.

Rush Permanent Waves: Track 6 – Natural Science

I wanted you to see the lyrics in the video for Natural Science because they are among the best written prose in Rush’s armory. This music is pretty dang good, too; blending in a lot of synths and effects with intricate melodies. There is some heavy rhythm-timing shifts going on in here that just plain astounds me they could keep up with it.

If you read the lyrics without the music, this whole song is a solemn reminder of how small we are in the great scheme of the universe. I walk away from this song with the upbeat reminder not to sweat the small stuff. This would be their last multi-part progressive rock epic before diving deep into their 80’s electronic sound.

On a scale of 1 to 10 (10 being the best)…

I give Permanent Waves an 8 out of 10. While all the songs are good, the meat and potatoes are tracks one, two, and three. As much as I like Natural Science and Jacob’s Ladder, neither lived up to their epic predecessors. They felt like a good try to keep those long songs alive, but both left me wanting just a little more.

Entre Nous is a dark horse hit in my mind, but didn’t get the attention it deserved. Different Strings would be higher on my favorites list if they would have let it end naturally. It feels like they chopped it off for time before it really got cooking. Even with those criticisms, Permanent Waves is Rush approaching the summit, and it is a rockingly righteous album.

“There were still several long songs, but there were quite a few shorter songs, and we condensed them more. We were more economical with them, and that sort of set the tone for at least the next ten years.”

Alex Lifeson to Billboard, 2004

Rush Review – The 70’s: “A Farewell to Kings” & “Hemispheres”

Author’s note: This article originally ppeared on another website I write for, That Hashtag Show, on January 24th, 2020

A Farewell to Kings – released in 1977

Riding the wave of commercial success from 2112, Rush released their fifth LP, A Farewell to Kings, in 1977. Only a year after releasing their first multi-platinum album, Rush traveled to the UK and recorded this gem in Wales, marking the first time the band recorded outside of Toronto. They completed the album in record time; three weeks to record at Rockfield Studios in Wales and two weeks to mix and finish at Advision Studios in London. It was Rush’s first U.S. Gold-seller and only took 60 days to get there. Platinum status would come in 1993, and Kings would climb all the way to #33 on the Billboard 200. It would also peak on the U.K. Charts at #22. Rush had found their groove yet again.

The band was thrilled with the musical results, too. Peart would later say that the mellow atmosphere and the seclusion of this studio was exactly the productive environment the band needed to work in. Looking back on it, Geddy Lee had this to say about the album:

“[A Farewell to Kings] is the only one of our albums apart from ‘2112‘ that I can really live with. I’ve yet to look at it and start finding fault with it, pick it apart, you know…it still sounds so positive.”

Geddy Lee

Let’s pick it apart for him, shall we?

A Farewell to Kings: Track 1 – A Farewell to Kings

A Farewell to Kings opening track shares its name with the album and starts out with a bard’s tale-type medieval acoustic guitar intro that would make Jaskier from The Witcher green with envy. Then it drops into classic complex guitar and bass riffs we know Rush for, backed by Peart’s entangled drums he knocks around so well. It’s six minutes of progressive-rock bliss. Bonus points for tossing in the Closer to the Heart reference that we’ll get to in a later track.

A Farewell to Kings: Track 2 – Xanadu

A song so complex, it requires three guys to play multiple instruments and double-neck guitars just to get it out. This is one of those deep-lyric songs inspired by prose that showcases just how talented the members of Rush really are. For fun, check out what it says for album credits on the instruments:

Neil Peart – Drums, orchestra bells, tubular bells, temple blocks, cowbells, wind chimes, bell tree, triangle, vibra-slap
Geddy Lee – Bass guitar, twelve string guitar, Mini Moog, bass pedal synthesizer, vocals
Alex Lifeson – Six and twelve string electric guitar, six and twelve string acoustic guitar, classical guitar, bass pedal synthesizer

This song is a Rush open-house event. Christopher Walken would be happy to see the cowbell in there, too. Oh, and there were real-live chirping birds at the studio where they recorded this song. Speaking of the real birds at the studio:

“We were very happy with the sound we got there for ‘Kings’, also it’s got so much to offer… Rockfield [Studios] is so good if you want to experiment–you know, you can go outside to record, use their weird echo room…that’s the kind of environment we like.”

Geddy Lee

The live recording of this on 1981’s Exit Stage Left might be one of the coolest performances you’ll ever see Rush do. It is pure musical genius on full display. YouTube is always good for comments, and this one actually made me laugh out loud. However, it is the best way to describe this song:

“An 11-minute prog-rock song including xylophones, gongs, chimes, double-necked guitars, and synthesizers; based on an 18th century poem; played by three grown Canadian men in silk kimonos who have more excessive hair than a 70’s porno… What more could you ask for??”

YouTube commenter Fuzzy Gaming

Indeed…

A Farewell to Kings: Track 3 – Closer to the Heart

There’s about ten songs Rush has in their arsenal that even non-Rush fans know and can appreciate. Closer to the Heart is in the top-3 on that list. It’s one of the few arrangements with outside influence (Peter Talbot wrote the lyrics) and still captures all that is Rush. It’s rockin’ enough for the heavier fans, yet light enough for the part-timers that only listen to Rush on Sundays. The drum work is flawless, as usual, and Lifeson delivers the love in on his guitar solo. Sadly, this song is too short, especially by Rush standards. I guarantee people who bought this album on cassette wore out the tape at this 3-minute section.

This track would appear on every live album released from 1977 onward. Even though the band dropped it off their Vapor Trails tour for most of their shows, the song made it back on the list for Rush in Rio and kept the streak intact. Alex Lifeson says Closer to the Heart is the ultimate Rush song, and The Trailer Park Boys would agree.

Hard to argue with that, but I, for one, still disagree. One song is the ultimate Rush song and we’ll talk about it in a later article.

A Farewell to Kings: Track 4 – Cinderella Man

Cinderella Man is one of the few tracks since Fly by Night that Peart didn’t write. Geddy Lee is responsible for this one and the rocking back beat is awesome. Slick guitar work overlaid with the synthesizer plays behind lyrics based on a film called Mr. Deeds Goes To Town by Frank Capra. The guitar solo and bass work at 2:25 are standout licks that won’t melt your face, but will definitely make you tap your feet.

A Farewell to Kings: Track 5 – Madrigal

A good tune, but not my favorite. The fantasy lyrics here are plain gorgeous. Overall though, the song just doesn’t sound like Rush and I had a hard time getting into it. I’ll be honest, I’m glad it’s one of Rush’s shortest songs ever.

A Farewell to Kings: Track 6 – Cygnus X-1 (Book One: The Voyage)

Here’s where Rush and spaceships go together! Cygnus X-1 is the first part of two epic songs based on the real discovery of a black hole in the constellation of Cygnus by Canadian astronomer Tom Bolton. The story behind this song is why I love Rush so much. Here’s an established super-group taking the time out of their busy touring schedule to keep up with nerdy news and then write a song about it! Of all their tunes thus far, this one, in my feeble mind, cements the band forever into geek rock-and-roll.

Fans of the science-fiction show, The Expanse, will recognize the name of Rush’s ship, the Rocinante, and the rest of the lyrics take us on the voyage into a black hole. Descending scales and scary beats takes into the abyss of the band’s musical triumph on this track. It’s a little hard to understand, but one part of this song too often overlooked is the spoken intro. Feast on this beautiful lyric layout:

“Six Stars of the Northern Cross / In mourning for their sister’s loss / In a final flash of glory / Nevermore to grace the night…”

If there is a better way of putting the death of a star into words, I have never heard it.

On a Scale of 1 to 10 (10 being the best)…

Canadian progressive rock group Rush, Bakersfield, California, USA, 26th September 1977. Left to right: bassist Geddy Lee, guitarist Alex Lifeson and drummer Neil Peart. (Photo by Fin Costello/Redferns/Getty Images)
Canadian progressive rock group Rush, Bakersfield, California, USA, 26th September 1977. Left to right: bassist Geddy Lee, guitarist Alex Lifeson and drummer Neil Peart. (Photo by Fin Costello/Redferns/Getty Images)

I give A Farewell to Kings an 8 out of 10. If not for Madrigal, I would’ve ranked it higher. As I’ve said before, not every song can be a hit. Even from Rush. Truthfully, I would rather have had an extra three minutes of funk bass riffs on Cygnus X-1 and left the album at five gorgeous tracks. But that’s just me. A Farewell to Kings is a great album deserving of the praise it received at the time of release, and definitely of its Platinum status.

Now, on to the final album of Rush in the 70’s: Hemispheres!

Rush Review – The 70’s: “2112”

Author’s note: This article originally appeared on another website I write for, That Hashtag Show, on January 17th, 2020.

After Caress of Steel met with mixed critical review and mediocre fan reaction, the record label begged the rocking trio from Toronto to abandon the idea of another musical concept album. Undaunted, our heroes plunged on and released an album that other concept albums are now measured by… 2112.

Cover art for

“We don’t want to change what people think about rock & roll, we just want to show them what we think about it.”

Alex Lifeson on 2112 from an interview in 1976
Rush on stage

The Billboard 200 climb only made it to #94, however, album sales told a whole different story. 2112 was certified Gold status in 1977—only a year-and-a-half after release. Four years later, it hit platinum and continued to the summit of Three-times Platinum certification by the Recording Industry Association of America. Rush found their first major commercial success here.

“We’ve got a big future ahead of us.”

Geddy Lee, 1976

2112 – Track 1: 2112

The 7-part opening track tells the story of life under the rule of The Red Star of the Solar Federation. The basis is, by the year 2112, apocalyptic events have occurred that leaves humanity under the thumb of The Priests of the Temple of Syrinx. They control everything this era of mankind does. Part I. Overture and II. The Temples of Syrinx are head-banging rockers that set the stage.

2112, part IV: Presentation
2112, part IV: Presentation

The best part of this whole epic comes at 6:48 in III. Discovery and IV. Presentation. Anyone who has ever learned to play guitar from rock bottom can relate to every part of this song, and Lee’s vocals here tell the amazing story of a priest who found a guitar, reveled in its beautiful sound, and tried to introduce music back into the world. Opposition comes from the Temple leadership, but that won’t stop our heroic priest. The face-melting bass and guitar solo at the end are some of the best of Rush.

The closing pieces of the movement round out what I consider being the best prog rock piece ever written. At the end of twenty minutes and thirty-three seconds, if you are a true fan of rock-and-roll, you’ll be grinning from ear to ear. Bring on the spaceships.

2112 – Track 2: A Passage to Bangkok

You don’t have to get high to enjoy Rush. I never smoked, but this song grew on me like it was under a grow light. It has a good sound, but it’s also a little goofy. The addition of the cheesy “Kung Fu” riff, while meant to be humorous, distracts from a solid guitar piece. The solo at the 2-minute mark is quite redeeming, however.

Lee and Peart always get a lot of Rush’s limelight, but Lifeson is definitely the meat in this taco. The comment that wins the internet comes from a YouTube viewer that said of this tune, “When Rush does a weed song, it takes the form of a lesson in agricultural geography.” Touche, my friend… touche.

2112 – Track 3: The Twilight Zone

Take a trip to the surreal in this tune that follows a couple famous Twilight Zone episodes with the lyrics, and was written and recorded in one day. It was the first single released from the album. While the tune is catchy, in my opinion, it’s the least of the songs on this album. Rod Serling gets his second album credit from Rush on this one, and even Marvel comics got in on the action. In 1977, The Defenders dedicated their 45th issue to each member of the band. In it, the antagonist Red Rajah (who is really a mind-controlled Dr. Strange) says: “Truth is false and logic lost, consult the Raja at all cost.”

This issue was dedicated to Rush, who later arranged to meet writers David Kraft and Roger Slifer at a show. The Red Rajah and his plot echo elements of 2112, with its Red Star Federation and emphasis on the individual struggling against an oppressive collective.

2112 – Track 4: Lessons

Lessons has one of the best overall complete beats on this album. You can’t help but bob your head to this Zeppelin-sounding track about teen angst. Alex Lifeson’s introduction to show business was in a documentary showing him arguing with his parents about quitting school to become a professional guitarist. You can’t help but wonder if this wasn’t written with a strong lean towards that experience. His guitar work on this short song is superb, and the fact that Lifeson penned the lyrics here lends to that theory.

2112 – Track 5: Tears

Rush didn’t do many love songs, but Tears would fall into that category, or perhaps a “love-lost” song. The genius of the lyrics here is we can translate them either way. There’s no burning guitar riffs or blazing drum work here, just a harmonious blend of Lee’s voice and Mellotron work, with Lifeson’s weeping guitar and Peart’s gentle taps and cymbals. Fans have used this for wedding marches, break-up songs, celebration of newfound love, or lament of missed romantic opportunities. You don’t have to be a mega-fan to appreciate the beauty of this tune.

2112 – Track 6: Something for Nothing

The album closes with this rocker, finishing up your journey on 2112 with classic Rush sound: Ripping guitar work, intricate bass licks, and walloping drums. The idea for this tune came from graffiti Peart saw from the tour bus in downtown Los Angeles that said, “Freedom isn’t free.”

“All those paeans to American restlessness and the American road carried a tinge of wistfulness, an acknowledgment of the hardships of the vagrant life, the notion that wanderlust could be involuntary, exile as much as freedom, and indeed, the understanding that freedom wasn’t free.”

Neil Peart

On a scale of 1 to 10 (10 being the best)…

Lifeson and Lee with their stacked guitars

I give 2112 a 9.5 out of 10. It’s not their penultimate album, but it’s one of their top-three of all time. Fans have voted more than once claiming 2112 is the definitive Rush album, but I believe that title belongs to a different one we’ll review later. This album is also the origin of the Star Man logo that would show up in artwork on later cuts. Peart describes the art in an interview with Creem Magazine:

“All he (the naked man) means is the abstract man against the masses. The red star symbolizes any collectivist mentality.”

Neil Peart
The Star Man

Another first on this album is the addition of musician Hugh Syme, who helps out with keyboards on Tears, and who would also design several other Rush album covers. He had something to say about the Star Man as well:

“The man is the hero of the story. That he is nude is just a classic tradition… the pureness of his person and creativity without the trappings of other elements such as clothing. The red star is the evil red star of the Federation, which was one of Neil’s symbols. We based that (album) cover around the red star and that hero.”

Hugh Syme

In summary, 2112 is on the 1001 Albums You Need to Hear Before You Die list, and deservedly so. It is a musical triumph that solidified Rush as a super-group in the prog rock universe and launched them on a 40-year odyssey where we all got to ride along.

What’s next in the Rush Review?

Check back later this week for a two-album review of A Farewell to Kings and Hemispheres! And if you missed it, check out the review for Caress of Steel here.

In memory of Neil Peart: 1952-2020

Sourced from: www.rush.com

Rush Review – The 70’s: “Caress of Steel”

Author’s Note: This article was originally published on another site I write for, That Hashtag Show, on 16 Jan 2020.

I decided to do this album as a separate article from the next one, 2112, for one simple reason: They both deserve their own review. These two were concept albums that shaped the future of Rush as a band, and how their fans would expect future albums to be. As far as their recording label is concerned, 1975’s Caress of Steel was not a success. The highest it got to on the Billboard 200 is 148th, However, mega-fans love it and often refer to it as Rush’s underrated triumph.

Rush: Caress of Steel cover art, 1975
Rush: Caress of Steel cover art, 1975

Something unique to this album is the band’s first attempt at one long song broken into pieces, not just by tracks but also within the track itself. This type of concept recording was not a new thing. The Moody Blues, YES, Pink Floyd, The Who, and many, many others had published concept tracks and albums by this time. This would also not be the last time Rush made a concept album like this, and though the record label hated it, Caress of Steel was the harbinger of great things to come.

Mercury Records magazine ad for Caress of Steel
Mercury Records magazine ad for Caress of Steel

Bastille Day kicks off with a rocking intro. I Think I’m Going Bald and Lakeside Park are good rock-out tunes. However, the money is made on the last two songs. This album is set apart by the epics The Necromancer and The Fountain of Lamneth; two multi-part short stories made into song. They cover more than 30 minutes of the total 43-minute cut. So when playing this album, listen to the first three songs. Rock out Rush style and have fun. When track four starts, shut off your phone and the lights, kick back, and close your eyes. The music and the words will paint pictures for you. And you don’t need any chemical enhancement to see it.

Lee, Lifeson and Peart, 1977
Lee, Lifeson and Peart, 1977

Caress of Steel – Track 1: Bastille Day

Live performance at Capitol Theater in Passaic, NJ – December 1976

This high-energy lead off track knocks fans out of the park with Lifeson firing riffs and Peart’s double-time drums. When Lee jumps in with the high pitch call for Revolution, the song is cemented as an ode to heavy rock before heavy rock was cool. The quick beat hardly lets the listener breathe for four-and-a-half minutes. It’s not my favorite song, but it grew on me after a while. Lifeson’s master guitar-smithing is on full display here, and it’s pretty damn good.

Caress of Steel – Track 2: I Think I’m Going Bald

The title is oddball, but don’t let that fool you. This track is about a frontman in another band that was close with Rush at the time. It tells of an upbeat and comedic look at getting older, but still doing it your way. Lifeson’s rocking, more-traditional guitar riff echoes in the back while Lee belts out the realization of aging. This song is reminiscent of tracks on their debut album and will really get your foot tapping.

Caress of Steel – Track 3: Lakeside Park

Live performance at Capitol Theater in Passaic, NJ – December 1976

Another personal memoir of Peart’s youth put to song. Lakeside Park tells the story of a park near where he grew up that he worked at, and all the menagerie that happened there. The lyrics call back to anyone who remembers a traditional carnival midway at a state fair as a youth. It paints a fond memory of carefree youth and a “pocket-full of silver” being “The key to Heaven’s door” with these lyrics:

Dancing fires on the beach,
Singing songs together.
Though it’s just a memory,
Some memories last forever.

Lakeside Park by Rush

The words are poignant nostalgia of innocence and days gone by. It’s a good song, but feels like a filler. It didn’t have the hit track qualities of their other tunes.

Caress of Steel – Track 4: The Necromancer

Featuring the return of By-Tor from Fly by Night, The Necromancer tells an epic story in three movements. Overall, the song almost plays out like a D&D campaign and doesn’t hide its nerdy greatness in any way. In fact, I’m sure there’s some DM’s out there who turned this song into an awesome night of dice, maps, and miniatures with their buddies. These lyrics are obviously influenced by Tolkien’s writing, too. The Necromancer in The Hobbit turned out to be Sauron the Destroyer. Peart’s lyrics tell a short story on the same vein. Take a listen:

Part I. Into Darkness is very Pink Floyd-ish, and sets up the story of three adventurers passing into the Necromancer’s lands. It’s a slow, acid rock-y dirge to set the dread our heroes are feeling as they approach the Necromancer’s borders.

Part II. Under the Shadow changes perspective to the Necromancer and picks up the musical pace. Similar to By-Tor and the Snow Dog, the guitar and the bass take the spotlight for a few minutes. Our heroes from Willow Dale (ironically, also the Toronto suburb) fall in the Necromancer’s clutches.

Part III. The Return of the Prince turns the song to upbeat, cheery strumming and picking, heralding the defeat of the evil Necromancer by Prince By-Tor.

Hard-core fans love this song, and so do I. One fan on YouTube jokes that you don’t need drugs when people make music like this! When asked why By-Tor is portrayed as the hero here and not on Fly by Night, Neil Peart said, “I guess he’s like all of us—sometimes good, and sometimes he’s bad!

Caress of Steel – Track 5: The Fountain of Lamneth

Clocking in at 20 minutes long, The Fountain of Lamneth is the threshold Rush needed to cross in order to make 2112. That does not, however, take any grandeur away from this progressive rock work of art. As I said earlier, fans didn’t appreciate this entire album at the time. It grew better with age, and this song is what drives it. Snippets out of this tune show up in later tracks, like chord progression during Bacchus Plateau came back in High Water on their 1987 album, Hold Your Fire.

Some call By-Tor and the Snow Dog Rush’s first “weird” song, but I disagree. I think this is that first weird one, but it’s good. The constant tempo changes, the high fantasy lyrics, fade-ins and outs between pieces, the switch between electric and acoustic throughout, and Peart’s scorching drum work during the second movement. About that second part, called Didacts and Narpets, Peart explained the shouted lyrics:

“…the shouted words in that song represent an argument between Our Hero and the Didacts and Narpets – teachers and parents. I honestly can’t remember what the actual words were, but they took up opposite positions like: “Work! Live! Earn! Give!” and like that.”

Neil Peart, 1991 interview with the Rush Backstage Club

Judge it how you like. It’s a weird song, but good—and necessary. It’s the first of three songs Rush made taking an entire album side—paving the way for great works to come.

On a scale of 1 to 10 (10 being the best)…

I give Caress of Steel a 6 out of 10. I want to rank it higher, but of their catalog, this whole cut is one giant musical experiment. It feels like a we-need-to-get-this-one-out-of-our-system type of recording effort. It’s a good album (there is no bad Rush album) that fans learned to appreciate more as it aged, but struggled with when it came out. Ticket sales reflected that on the tour that followed. The album, sadly, never even hit Gold status.

Rush, 1974

The record company practically begged the band to abandon this train of music-making and go back to The Working Man-type of success. Many fans agreed at the time, expressing little interest in an album where one song took up the whole side of their LP. I’m glad they stuck to their guns. Without Caress of Steel being cut like it was, and if Rush would have capitulated to the record label gods, 2112 would have never been made. That album, and the effort that went into this one, is musical master-work and I’ll fight those who disagree!

The next review coming shortly… 2112! See where this review all began here.

Lifeboat: A Star Wars Fan Fiction, Part III

Part III: Fortress Vader, The Gahenn Plains on Mustafar
1 BBY (5 years earlier…)

The shuttle’s rear ramp lowered, sending a blast of intense heat up into the cargo hold. Lieutenant Varon Seeda had never visited a molten planet before. The powerful odor of burning sulfur assaulted his senses, stinging his eyes and nostrils. His gray Imperial uniform felt uncomfortable, itchy and sticking to his skin.

He walked out into the heat to gain his bearing. In the distance, spires of volcanic rock jutted skyward across the landscape. Magma erupted in fountains of orange sporadically across the rocky terrain. Below the landing platform, a massive river of lava flowed from the base of the towering black spike known as Fortress Vader; the personal stronghold of the Emperor’s right hand and chief enforcer, Darth Vader.

His journey to Mustafar was shrouded in secrecy. These types of clandestine assignments were not suited for academics like him. Seeda was a research historian from the basement of the Imperial Reclamation Services, and though he was a trained Imperial Infantry officer, he was no soldier. He was too smart for that, preferring to fight using his mind rather than a blaster. Life at the Reclamation Service was usually quiet. At least it was until certain discoveries were made. Since then, his simple compulsory military career was overturned.

Learn ancient languages, Seeda. You’re so smart,” he mocked to himself. “Bollocks. I should have gone on to Lothal with the 7th Fleet. Anywhere but here.

The most dangerous condition he’s faced in a five-year military career was a Mynock attaching itself to the power cable in his apartment building on Coruscant. Now, he was crossing the molten surface of Mustafar seeking audience with the most terrifying soldier in the Empire.

In his left hand he carried a black reinforced-steel case attached to his wrist by cuff and locked in some way he could not discern. Instructions from his commander on Coruscant demanded Seeda to protect it with his life. Deliver the package to Lord Vader directly and no other. From that moment forward, two of the Emperor’s personal guard were assigned to him and they have not left his side since.

He debarked and advanced to the reception vestibule at the bottom of the landing pad. His pace quickened toward the door, hoping to shorten his exposure to the unbearable high temperature. Hoping Lord Vader would see the value in his intellectual services rather than a simple courier, he steeled himself and pushed the intercom button at the personnel door.

“Seeda, Lieutenant Varon. Serial TTN-37388. Reporting as ordered to Lord Vader’s command.”

No response. He tried again with the same result. He walked backward a few feet to look over the doorway for a security monitor but saw none. “Perhaps no one is home,” he mumbled. Pulling in a deep breath of super-heated air, he bellowed out towards the seemingly empty tower.
HELLLOOOOO?

Nothing. No activity to be seen anywhere. His voice echoed off the empty canyon walls. The only reply was the hiss of gurgling lava below. He approached the door again, leaning closer to the intercom and pushed the button again, speaking loudly.

“This is Lieutenant Seeda, TTN-37-“

Suddenly, the heavy blast doors slid open, revealing the scarred armor of a Trooper captain by his rank plaque, flanked by two Magma Troopers. Seeda saluted smartly and came to attention before him.

Vader's trooper commander, Captain Junus

“Lieutenant Varon Seeda of the Imperial Reclamation Service reporting under royal order of the Emperor. I carry a message for Lord Vader, and am newly assigned to his service.” He pulled a holodisk containing his orders from his tunic pocket and extended it to the captain, who did not seem at all interested.

Captain Junus, the garrison commander of Fortress Vader, made it his business to know all the comings and goings involving Darth Vader and those who served him. This Lieutenant Seeda was not among them. He looked down at the disk, yet did not take it. He stood for a moment, gripping his rifle tightly while sizing up the scrawny officer. Finally, his eyes came to rest on the secure message case.

“Neither I nor Lord Vader received notice of your impending arrival, or any such orders,” came the electronic voice from behind Junus’s helmet.

“My lord is not accepting visitors at the moment. However, I will deliver your message. You may wait here at his pleasure.” Junus extended his hand to take the locked case, not the holodisk. Seeda recoiled.

“I beg your pardon sir, but my orders are to deliver the message only to Lord Vader personally,” he said, slipping the case back behind him. Sweat began running down his brow and his hands began to shake. “I am ordered to protect it with my life, placing it in his hands only. With respect, I must see him immediately.”

The Magma Troopers both brought their DLT-19 heavy rifles to bear. Captain Junus withdrew his hand, folding his arms behind his back. His face was hidden, but no doubt his expression changed from irritation to anger.

“I’ve no time for games, Lieutenant. You arrive unannounced, claim to be sent by the Emperor himself, and carry a shielded case which you will not surrender for inspection. Do you have any idea how many assassination attempts there have been on Lord Vader while I have served him?”

“No sir, I don—”

“Eighty-seven,” came his sharp rebuke.

“Eighty-seven times, enemies of the Empire have sent their worst. Capital ships, X-Wing fighters, thermal detonators, assassins, saboteurs, bounty hunters, spies, droids and one particularly nasty Rathtar hidden inside a Bantha carcass. Eighty-seven times we have thwarted them all.” The tone of his voice increased angrily with each item he listed. “Just because you drop out of hyperspace aboard an Imperial shuttle does not make you any less of a threat. How am I assured you are not here for attempt number eighty-eight? Why would Lord Vader, the right hand of the Emperor himself, not be notified about a messenger of such importance?

By what authority would you ever think I would allow you access without passing through proper security protocol?” The Troopers took an aggressive step forward. That was a mistake.

Behind him, the nose ramp lowered again. Down marched two crimson-clad Royal Guards in quick lockstep, brandishing their signature force-pikes. They swiftly crossed the landing pad and took position on either side of the lieutenant, menacingly dropping their pikes into attack position. The Magma Troopers and Junus took a slight step backward. Seeda, taking this opportunity to feel more important than he had ever been, bowed up to his full height and pushed his chest out.

Captains Vario and Krest
Vario and Krest intervene

“These are Captains Vario and Krest of the Emperor’s Royal Guard. I suppose my authority derives through them. Now Captain, if you please, or if you don’t please, I care not either way. Take me to see Lord Vader. Now.”

The throng moved to a holding room just inside the entrance. The room was black metal from floor to ceiling, the standard Imperial build. Captain Junus stood at at the conference table across from the Lieutenant and motioned for him to sit. He was still flanked by his Magma Troopers, while Seeda sat between the two towering red sentinels. The message box was set on the table between them, still attached to Seeda’s arm by chain. Junus held his hand down on the intercom panel.

“My Lord, if you’re there, please forgive my interruption. A shuttle has arrived from Coruscant with a messenger claiming to be here on behalf of the Emperor. He states he will only give the message to you, personally. I await your orders.”

A tense silence descended between them. Seeda tapped his fingers on the table with a smug grin. He was not usually disrespectful to superiors, yet he was enjoying this role reversal. Junus pushed the intercom button again.

“My Lord… your orders, sir. Shall I hold them?”

Darth Vader meditating

Near the top of the fortress, the shuttle’s arrival did not escape the notice of Darth Vader, even while meditating in his chambers. He detected the force-sensitive royal guards as soon as the ship entered orbit over Mustafar. As he donned the final piece of his helmet, the intercom buzzed a final time.

Lord Vader, this is Captain Junus. Forgive my interruption. A shuttle has arrived with a message for you. The messenger claims to be sent from the Emperor, himself. Shall I hold them?

Still no answer. Seeda continued drumming his fingertips on the cold table surface, knowing full well the sound irritated the Troopers. After several minutes of silence, he stood and took up the case as if to leave. “Does Lord Vader treat all royal messengers with such contempt?” asked Seeda, feeling even more confident now than he did on the platform outside. Suddenly, his throat felt tight, as if the collar of his uniform jacket was shrinking.

“I treat all unannounced visitors with such contempt, and you are no different, Lieutenant. I find your lack of humility… insulting,” came the terrifying mechanized voice of Darth Vader from the doorway behind.

He held his clenched fist before him, stretched out toward where Lieutenant Seeda was now gasping for air and clutching his throat. Vader swept into the room, black cape flowing behind him, and advanced toward Seeda with a purposeful step. Junus and the Magma Troopers quickly snapped up to attention, startled by the Sith lord’s stealthy arrival. Only the Royal Guards remained unphased by his presence. Finally, Vader opened his fist, allowing the air to once again fill Seeda’s collapsing lungs.

“M…my..my lord, for.. forgive my insolence,” he said, clearing his throat and pulling at his collar. “It is an honor to…” Seeda started, and was abruptly cut off.

“You may dispense with the pleasantries, Lieutenant. What is your message?” Vader demanded.

His mask was within inches of Seeda’s face. He could see his own terrified reflection in the black pools of Vader’s gaze. He nervously glanced over at Junus, and then back to Vader. “Lord Vader, my orders were quite clear. This message is for you alone. By order of the Emperor.”

Keeping his masked gaze on Lieutenant Seeda, he waved his black-gloved hand dismissively. “Thank you, Captain. You and your men are relieved.” Junus didn’t like the order, but he knew better than to protest. He filed out with his troopers through the same door Vader entered, closing it behind him.

“Now,” Vader started. “Your message. Quickly.”

“Ye..yes, mi’lord.” Seeda stuttered out. He pulled a small key from his pocket, unclasping the box from his wrist and placing it before him on the table. “The Emperor has ordered me to give you this and instructs you are to open it only aboard the shuttle once we have left orbit. Though I am not privy to the contents, I have been ordered to accompany you and to assist however I can once we arrive at our destination.”

“And what is our destination?” Vader asked.

“Again, my lord, I am not given such information. I am told only to serve you to and to encourage our immediate departure. The shuttle pilot has the destination pre-programmed, and even now awaits your arrival. She has the coordinates for your review once we’re away.”

Vader stood in silence a moment. He glanced to the royal guards and back to the message case on the table. It bore the official seal of the Emperor, signifying it was truly a top-secret communication which would require his own validation code to see its contents. He reached out with the Force. Though the scrawny lieutenant appeared confident, he could sense the fear coursing through him.

Seeda was telling the truth.

He then bent his feelings toward the message box, looking for traps. Though he could not discern the message content, he sensed a non-descript MK-V Sienar holoprojector inside. Nothing else. Strange of his master to send such a simple device in place of their usual formal communications. He also knew the Emperor to be cautious with highly sensitive matters. In recent days, the rebels found ways to decipher the Empire’s encryption codes. Until a new mechanism for secrecy was instituted, no coded transmissions were safe from interception. After a few moments of contemplation, he glowered over the lieutenant.

“Make preparations. We leave within the hour.” And with that, he swept out of the room leaving Seeda still rubbing at his throat.

Once Lord Vader boarded, the SFS-204 ion engines roared to life, and they were quickly in orbit above Mustafar. He stood at the threshold of the flight deck observing the crew’s actions. In his right hand was the force-locked case containing his master’s coded message. His left rested at his belt, just above his lightsaber. Seeing that all was in order, he descended the ramp into the cargo hold.

At the far end, the two crimson-clad sentinels of the Emperor’s guard stood motionless except for the gentle sway of the ship’s movement out of the upper atmosphere. For his master to part with two of his precious guards, this mission must be important indeed. However, he disdained the overabundance of caution.

The mighty Sith Lord, Darth Vader, had no need of bodyguards.

Once orbit had been achieved, Vader retired to a private state room aboard the shuttle to view his master’s message. He laid the case before him and outstretched his hand. He sensed the locking mechanism, using the force as his key to manipulate the durasteel bolt holding it shut. Every electrical impulse in the room touched his senses. He reached out with his mind and lowered the lights to a dim glow. After a moment, the latch flipped, and the lid slowly revealed the contents. The small holo-projector disk floated across and into the cradle at the center of the table, where a miniature visage of Emperor Palpatine erupted upward and began to speak.

The Emperor's Message

“Lord Vader, you will travel to the moon of Jedha and oversee harvesting of the remaining Kyber Crystals within the temple at Jedha City. The Death Star project is stalled and depends on your success. Commander Kyson has failed to quell the rebels there, led by the outlaw Saw Gerrera, and is grossly behind schedule. Remind him of the price of failure when you take command.”

The recording flickered briefly, scrambling the image of the Emperor for a moment, but his voice continued without pause.

“The rebel leader is a target of opportunity; however, he is not your objective. My agents within Jedha City have made a discovery. Two artifacts have been recovered within the Temple of the Kyber that are of great import to me, and to us; a holocron and a text. I am certain you feel the disturbance as acutely as I. It seems they have found something we have been searching for after all this time, my old friend. The Force trembles with anticipation of the greatness we are about to achieve. Only you can I trust to bring what they have found to me. Make haste. Secure the artifacts and see to the extraction of the remaining kyber crystals. Once the excavation is back on schedule, bring the tome and holocron to me on Coruscant.”

The tone of Palpatine’s voice then turned dour. Vader sensed the uneasiness in his master’s next words.

“A usurper has risen from the Unknown Regions. I have dispatched the 7th Fleet to eliminate him. I will not suffer another rebellion. He will be dealt with swiftly. Until he is crushed however, he could be a threat to us. Speak of this discovery to no one, not even your most trusted servants, until you are in possession of what has been found. Secrecy must ever be our ally.”

The recording paused a moment as the shuttle settled into its hyperspace lane, suspending the tiny blue image of his Emperor like a marionette puppet before him. The radiation shielding required during travel through hyperspace often played havoc with hologram signals; a necessary annoyance Vader had dealt with since his early days of hyperspace travel during the Clone Wars.

Vader crossed arms in contemplation. A usurper from the Unknown Regions?

If the Emperor has sent the vaunted 7th Fleet to dispatch him, he must be more than a passing annoyance to the Empire. Although he and Thrawn competed for Palpatine’s favor, Vader held his exceptionally skilled rival in high regard. This new threat would receive no mercy at the hands of the Emperor’s favored pet Chiss admiral. Who could present such a challenge that required this much firepower to quell? He noted to further investigate the matter when he arrived on Coruscant. After a moment, the hologram started again.

“You will find the academic skills of young Lieutenant Seeda useful for this mission. He is fluent in the ancient Sith languages spoken on Ziost and Korriban. Plagueis often scribed his notes in the old tongue to protect them from prying eyes. Keep Seeda alive. We will need him. I have foreseen it. I have also sent two promising acolytes to assist you. Captains Vario and Krest have proven capable warriors loyal to me. No doubt you have discerned they are force-sensitive. You will find that trait beneficial on this assignment, my apprentice. Use them as you see fit. Should they survive this mission, I shall consider them for my Sovereign Protector corps.

Until then, they are at your disposal. Do what must be done.”

The image fades and the holo-projector falls silent. Darth Vader can hardly believe it. For years, his master has promised they would tear the galaxy apart to find the writings of Darth Plagueis the Wise. The Emperor said his former master would tirelessly collect and record all of his research into immortality within a tome and holocron, both of which had been lost to time.

Could these truly be the lost works of Darth Plagueis? Have they at last been found?

Darth Plagieus

The looming threat from beyond the Outer Rim has divided the attention of the Emperor, this could be his opportunity to be free of his yoke forever …
… to be in control his own destiny …
… to rule the galaxy as he saw fit …
… and with Padme, at long last, again by his side.

He settled his resolve. The sooner these crystals were harvested, the sooner he could travel to Coruscant and learn the truth of this discovery. He would not be denied this time. The crackling voice of the shuttle pilot came over the intercom, punching through his daydream and interrupting his thoughts. “My Lord, we’ve entered hyperspace and will arrive at Jedha in four hours. Will you require regular updates?”, she asked.

“I do not, commander,” he replied in annoyance. “I do not wish to be disturbed until we enter orbit. Is that clear?”

“Ye… yes sir,” came a timid reply.

“And Commander, find Doctor Aphra. I may have need of her services.”

“Right away, Lord Vader.”

Next time, in Lifeboat, Part IV

Vario awakes! The mysterious injured guard shares his story. Plus, the twelve surviving Imperials aboard the shuttle learn where the final piece of Krest’s mysterious puzzle resides, and what they have to do to get it. Also, we learn just how deep Aloo’s treachery went, and Meera Dyre discovers she is more than just an Imperial Medical Officer!

The Aloo Family Luxury Yacht, Stargazer, in orbit over Volusia
The Aloo Family Luxury Yacht, Stargazer, in orbit over Volusia

Disclaimer

The preceding is a work of fan fiction based upon and utilizing locations, characters, and/or plot points from the Star Wars universe, originally created by George Lucas and trademarked to Lucasfilm, Ltd. The author makes no claim whatsoever of ownership of the Star Wars name, characters represented, or the Star Wars universe generally. This work is created of the author’s own imagination and is intended for entertainment purposes only. It does not purport to be an “official” Star Wars story or part of existing Star Wars canon in any way. The author is not profiting financially in any way as the result of the creation or publication of this piece of fan fiction.

Rush Review– The 70’s: “Rush” and “Fly by Night”

Author’s note: This article originally appeared on another website I write for, www.thathashtagshow.com. This, and my Rush articles that follow are done in memory of Neil Peart, 1952-2020.

Rush, self-titled debut– 1974

Rush, 1974 debut album cover
Rush, 1974 debut album cover

Perhaps it’s destiny, but Rush debuted their first album the same month and year I was born. Being a fan, for me, was in the stars. So let’s dig in to this debut album. The entire thing is good, and even though drummers would change after this recording, it still sounds enough like the modern Rush we know today. I mean that in the most positive way. John Rutsey was a great drummer and got this group off to a rockin’ start. Sadly, an illness associated with diabetes afflicted him, opening the door for Neil Peart, who would be with Rush for their entire career.

Read the first article in the Rush Album Review here!

If you listen to this album from start to finish, it’s awesome. Lifeson’s guitar and Lee’s voice carried the load throughout. But it also was at risk of blending in with every other start-up rock band from ’70 to ’75. This album shows the abilities of a band on the verge of greatness, but there was something still missing. In the end, the problem was Rush was only two-thirds of what they needed to be before going big.

Lifeson, Lee and Rutsey, 1974
Lifeson, Lee and Rutsey, 1974

They had a clean sound with mass appeal, but success wasn’t instant. The album made it to #105 on the Billboard 200 and did get certified gold, but not until 1995. Even the band didn’t like it after the first recording and recorded it again to get a better sound. Once they did, Moon Records was born and, well, the album we got speaks for itself. It still wasn’t easy, though. Until Cleveland D.J. Donna Halper started playing Working Man on her station WMMS, no one knew who Rush was. When they did hear it, the requests for more Rush started filing in. Before long, a U.S. recording contract was sent across to Canada from Mercury Records. Rush had finally arrived.

Rush – Track 1: Finding My Way

Concert in Los Angeles, California in 1974. Neil Peart is at drums on this recording.

This track rocks right off the bat with Lifeson’s mean guitar riffs and Lee’s ramped up vocals. They carry the song all the way through with raging power chords and that immediate recognizable riff. Future live performances would see this song as a mashup medley with Working Man or In The Mood, and usually include a mind-bending Neil Peart drum solo.

Rush – Track 2: Need Some Love

A good song that features the strength of Lee’s vocal runs, both high and low. The song has a more 60’s vibe than the rest of the album. It’s about the age-old saga of boys chasing girls, and, well, what rock and roll band doesn’t have one of those?

Rush – Track 3: Take A Friend

I think the lyrics of this song were more prophetic than they ever knew. Lifeson and Lee were childhood friends long before Rush, and they remained friendly with Rutsey even after he left the band. When Peart joined up, the trio would become lifelong friends, and the lyrics inspire you to be a friend when you see someone lonely. That’s something we could all do better at.

“Well, I’m lookin’ at you,
and I’m wond’rin’ what you’re gonna do.
Looks like you got no friends,
no one to stick with you till the end.
Take yourself a friend.
Keep ’em till the end.
Whether woman or man,
it makes you feel so good,
so good.”

Lyrics to Take a Friend by Rush

Rush – Track 4: Here Again

The only entry on this album to be played in a minor key, this bluesy addition to the catalog is not what Rush typically sounds like, but I love it. Growing up in a musical household to the likes of Robin Trower, Savoy Brown, The Allman Brothers and the like, I appreciated the blues ballad at a young age more than most. Lifeson’s crying guitar solo in the latter half is pure gold and just speaks to my soul. Critics hated it, so I suppose that’s why I like it.

Rush – Track 5: What You’re Doing

Great song with a monster rock sound, the angst of youth, and the feel of sticking it to the man. This song has been endlessly compared to the Led Zeppelin sound, and cements the hard rock sound of the 70’s in Rush’s history. Being a Zeppelin fan as well, it’s really easy to like the sound on this track.

Rush – Track 6: In The Mood

I’ll admit when I first heard it, I didn’t like it much, but it grew on me a little. It’s another boys chasing girls song, but again, it’s rock and roll in the 70’s and that was pretty standard, well, even to this day for rock bands. As usual, Lifeson’s guitar is wicked on this track, but the lyrics feel obligatory to the girl-chasing rocker lifestyle and didn’t really do much for me. It ranks low on my favorites list, but still a good track.

Rush – Track 7: Before and After

In my humble opinion, this is the dark horse hit of this album. It didn’t get the air play and recognition it deserved, but shows the depth of musical ability these guys have. It blends that beautiful harmonic intro perfect with the grittier riffs and lyrics that come at 2:16, and is the harbinger of what the future of Rush would sound like.

Rush – Track 8: The Working Man

Featuring original drummer John Rutsey on drums

This is it. The song that put Rush on the rock and roll map. It’s good. Really good. But of all the songs on the album, in my opinion, it’s not the best one. However, the lyrics and gritty riffs resonated with the working class person in Cleveland, where it was played regularly on WMMS, and the popularity of the song caught the attention of Mercury Records. The middle features scorching freestyle guitar work from Lifeson, and was voted 94th of the top 100 Greatest Guitar Solos by Guitar World magazine.

On a scale of 1 to 10 (10 being the best)…

I give the Rush debut album an overall 5. It’s good, but again, they were on the verge of greatness—not quite to the edge yet. Something that would push them over the edge later was the prominence of Peart’s drums and literary lyrics. Like I said, Rutsey was a great drummer, but he wasn’t the right drummer for this trio. Some fans call their songs after this album “weird”, but that’s what makes Rush so great. I’m weird and I’m an 80’s kid, so their music resonates loudly with me.

Peart, Lee and Lifeson on tour early in their career
Peart, Lee and Lifeson on tour early in their career

To be fair, my introduction to Rush didn’t happen until 1990 in high school, when two friends, Clint and Bryan Oxley (they’re cousins), wore Rush t-shirts to school all the time. They were both astonished I didn’t know anything about them, then they poked and prodded me every day in wood shop into checking them out. I bought my first album (which I’ll name later) and I was hooked. I went back and picked up other cassettes (yes, I said cassettes) of their previous work. Between Rush, Styx and Pink Floyd, I made it to graduation.

Click the next page for Fly by Night!

Rush – 40 Years of Geek Rock-n-Roll

Rush on stage - Clockwork Angels tour

Author’s note: This article originally appeared on another website I write for, www.thathashtagshow.com. It was published before the announcement of Neil Peart’s passing. This, and the Rush articles that follow are done in memory of Neil Peart, 1952-2020.

Immediately following a gig in 1973, three band-mates went straight to the cheapest studio they could find in Toronto and cut their first album. At this time, the band was Geddy Lee, Alex Lifeson and John Rutsey, and they called themselves Rush.

Lifeson, Lee and Rutsey, 1974
Lifeson, Lee and Rutsey, 1974

“The first stab at the album was done in eight hours following a gig. We were warmed up after the show, and it came very easy. Then it was re-cut in November in about three days, including mixing time. We were lucky in that most of the songs came in two or three takes.”

Alex Lifeson

That first album, simply self-titled Rush, came out in March of 1974. Rutsey left after that album due to illness, making room to bring in Neil Peart on drums. Then, three weeks later, the trio performed live for the first time together at the Pittsburgh Civic Arena, opening for Manfred Mann and Uriah Heep. Now, 40 years and 33 albums later, let’s take a look back at the 3rd-highest multi-gold and platinum band in the history of rock and roll (24 gold and 14 platinum).

Lee, Lifeson and Peart - Rush

Rush: Meet the Band – Geddy Lee

Geddy Lee - Rush
Geddy Lee – Rush

In 1968, Geddy Lee first took the stage as part of Rush at the behest of his childhood friend, Rush guitarist Alex Lifeson. From there, he became one of the most recognizable front men and bassists in rock and roll. His play style is often replicated but never duplicated, inspiring bass players world wide for over four decades. Lee would take on composing duties for Rush, creating some of the most amazing progressive rock tracks known to man, all while belting out the tunes as lead vocal and sometimes playing keyboard at the same time with his feet.

In 2015, Rush played their final tour but that didn’t stop Lee from getting into a new project, his 408-page opus to his instrument of choice, the bass guitar, titled The Big Beautiful Book of Bass. The book came out in 2018 and has become a best-seller in books on music. Since then, he’s been on a world-wide book signing tour. When he came to Nashville, my hometown newspaper, The Tennessean, caught up with him to ask about life after Rush and what he misses about the band:

Lee with part of his Bass Guitar collection - Rush
Lee with part of his Bass Guitar collection – Rush

“I miss playing with my band mates, who I played with for over 40 years, that’s for sure. I don’t miss the gut-wrenching part of it, and I don’t’ miss the wear-and-tear on my body. But, of course, I had a very unique relationship in Rush and these guys were my friends for over 40 years and to make music with your friends is a blessing of a different kind. It’s a wonderful thing. I do miss that.”

Geddy Lee

Rush: Meet the Band – Alex Lifeson

Alex Lifeson - Rush
Alex Lifeson – Rush

Co-founder of Rush, along with childhood friend Geddy Lee and John Rutsey, Alex Lifeson got his start in show business in a Canadian documentary, depicting him having an argument with his parents over the merits of dropping out of school to become a professional guitar player. Well, even if he didn’t win the argument, the results (in his case) speak for themselves. Lifeson went on to be lead guitar for Rush, also playing mandolin, Bouzouki, bass pedals synths, keyboards, and mandola. Oh, and he does backing vocals, too!

Lifeson makes his living on unorthodox chord structures, signature riffs, and an unlimited arsenal of electronic effects and processing. That’s why they call him “The Musical Scientist”. He can burn up the fret board either with searing solos or melodic rhythm at any moment, and sometimes one after the other in the same song. He’s also been voted the #3 best guitarist in the world by Guitar World magazine reader’s polls and is in the Top 100 Greatest Guitarists of All Time from Rolling Stone magazine.

Alex Lifeson - Rush
Alex Lifeson – Rush

“When I sit down and play guitar, I melt into the instrument. I can play for hours by myself. Playing guitar has given me such a wonderful life and I am grateful for it.”

Alex Lifeson

Rush: Meet the Band – Neil Peart

Nicknamed “The Professor”, Neil Peart can not only wield drum sticks mightily (c’mon… 9+ minute drum solos are pretty dang mighty!), but wields an even mightier pen. Peart is responsible for the lion’s share of Rush’s literary-themed lyrics, beginning with Fly by Night, and still chugging along to this day. Peart has also written multiple books on travel, with Ghost Rider being a best-seller about his personal journey to overcome family tragedy.

Peart's R40 Tour drum kit setup
Peart’s R40 Tour drum kit setup

On stage, Neil Peart is a drumming machine. If you take a look at his drum kit above from the R40 Tour, it’s easy to see how hard this man works to put on a show, and that’s not his biggest or most intricate kit. Two things that stands out like beacons about Peart is his humanity and his humility. He’s a very private guy, rarely granting interviews. In one, however, on a Canadian TV show, he talks about his way of handling fame and being called a celebrity. Hearing him speak about it this way, it’s impossible not to become a fan:

“Constantly having to earn it (fame and celebrity) is a good motivation for it. You know, I don’t just take for granted that people admire what we do, so whatever we do, they’ll admire. No… every audience—I feel like we have to earn them, that we have to earn their dedication; their expenditure of time, energy and money to be there. Every single time.”

Neal Peart, Drummer

Album Reviews and More

My personal Rush autographed picture from the R40 tour in 2015
My personal Rush autographed picture from the R40 tour in 2015

Something that makes Rush stand the test of time and different from other rock bands is the lack of drama. They’ve only changed members once, and these three are genuine friends. If they weren’t on stage together melting off the crowds faces with their music, you’d see them together at a hockey game or a restaurant or something, hamming it up just like they do in their shows. When you see them on stage, they genuinely love being there. Neil Peart had a great quote in the interview I mentioned above where he said there is no democracy in a 3-piece band. There is never a 2-against-1 scenario. We talk things out and arrive at unanimous decisions. What rock band does that anymore?!

The Star Man
The Star Man

Over the next few weeks, we’ll review each album in this storied band’s rock career, highlighting the highs and lows, sharing stories and peeling back the layers on this talented trio’s 40 years of touring, making music and entertaining fans around the globe. We’ll cover their early days, from opening for KISS and Aerosmith, to their final tour of 2015. Sit back, relax, and get ready to have your senses taken to the max. Ladies and gentlemen, here comes 40 years of Rush!

Sourced from Rush: Official Website

Lifeboat: A Star Wars Fan Fiction, Part II

Aboard Emperor Palpatine’s Shuttle, Lambda-Class T4-a Executive Model, Outer Rim, Moddell Sector, 4 ABY

Meera stared out of the narrow glass into the empty black void of space. Tears of sorrow flooded from her eyes. “Are we the last ones left alive?” she whispered to herself. “How could this have happened?”

In a flash, the black was replaced with brilliant blue streaks fading in the wake of the shuttle. She watched the tiny cosmic particles dance and flare between the stretches of ion trail from the shuttle’s engines. Even the mesmerizing blur of stars in a hyperspace jump could not erase what she just saw. The destructive energy burst of the Death Star mere moments ago was seared into her mind—never to be forgotten. Her head pounded; thoughts muddled with replays of the cataclysm she witnessed in the fiery halls of the battle station. And his face.

The face of the Jedi assassin would haunt her forever.

1535481904_noto-vaderluke

You’re in shock, she thought to herself. You survived it, Meera, just as Father used to tell you. It’s just shock. Be grateful for that.

Meera shuddered. She knew it was a lie, even if only to herself. Her malady wasn’t from simple shock. There was something more, unlike anything she had ever felt before. She couldn’t explain it. The cries of every dying soul in the battle rang in her head. She could feel tingles, like tiny pin pricks—one for each life that was snuffed out behind her. Meera closed her eyes tightly, trying to will away their screams. They remained, and she wept.

Between sobs, she glanced over to the med capsule and remembered the injured guard laying in it was only reason she stood in this cargo bay and was not burning to a cinder in the vacuum of space. The blinking beacon inset to the top indicated critical care was required. She wiped the tears from her face, careful not to press on the gash in her cheek, and punched up his triage report on her data pad. It didn’t look promising, but Meera was confident she could keep him alive until they reached a proper medical facility. She pulled back the pod’s glass shroud and gently cradled behind his neck to remove his menacing crimson helmet.

He was quite handsome; fair skinned with a muscular jaw and a salt-and-pepper goatee. His hair was black, shoulder-length with flecks of grey. He was not scarred, but his face had seen battle. Meera could tell after all the troopers she has treated in the war against the rebels. Even at rest, a warrior’s face told the stories of the horrors they have seen in war. He lay so calm and still she could easily mistake him for dead. She leaned down and looked closer into his face.

“Still breathing, I see. That’s good. At least I can save one comrade today.”

She reset the shroud and keyed the program to start a medically-induced coma. The bacta serum would handle the rest until they could get him to something better. She let out a heavy sigh. It would be many cycles before she could forget this day. A shot of pain traveled up her arm, causing her to grimace. Her own wounds were now demanding attention. The gash on her arm and on her cheek throbbed in waves, and her headache reached a full maelstrom behind her eyes. Damn, she thought. A concussion, too? The hits just keep on coming.

That was something else her father used to say. The hits just keep on coming. Meera smiled at the memory. She pulled a bacta injector from her sleeve pocket and jabbed it to her carotid artery. The life-giving liquid surged into her bloodstream when the injector pinged, bringing instant relief from the pain in her head, but not the screams. Those remained.

Wait, that wasn’t a scream—someone in the over-deck behind her was shouting.

The words were muffled through the bulkhead, but they were loud and definitely hostile. She turned to go investigate, only to find one of the red-armored Storm Troopers was right behind her blocking the way up. Startled, she jumped and shrieked.

“You’re lucky the Captain vouched for you,” came the electronic disembodied voice from inside his helmet. “Our orders were to shoot anyone who tried to board.”

Meera stared into the cold black eyes of his helmet, seeing only her reflection staring back. The salt of her tears burned in the wound on her cheek as she cried for the thousands of her Imperial brothers and sisters aboard the Death Star. All those lives… lost—and this one would have taken more on orders.

“You would have killed me just for trying to survive?” she asked through the tears and pain.

“Just following orders, ma’am,” he replied.

“Who ordered you to murder fellow Imperials?”

“Royal Adviser of the Emperor, Sim Aloo,” came the cold response. “He was very specific. Welcome aboard.” He turned and marched through the open cargo bay door. The steel blast panels swished closed behind him.

Something in his tone brought long- buried memories flooding back to the surface. Things she wanted to forget. Memories of her childhood, and of her father who worked for the Empire in the heavy weapons factories on Sullust.

Memories of a simpler time with him after her mother died; and memories of the Storm Troopers “just following orders” that killed him.

She stormed up the ramp and through the doors to investigate the shouting, hoping it would distract her from the painful reminisce. The door at the top slid open to reveal a luxurious cabin with a large black conference table in the center. Around it were two Imperial Majors—one young and handsome, and the other bulky with a strange-looking mustache. Another red-armored Storm Trooper without his helmet and a mechanical technician sat opposite each other close to the door.

At the far end, at a ramp Meera assumed led to the cockpit stood three more fully-armored Storm Troopers with blasters at the ready. Their armor was bright red, matching the color of the Royal Guard. She surmised they must be a special detachment for the Emperor. She had never seen them, nor their sleek red armor before. In all, including Meera and the two pilots she assumed were in the cockpit above, there were twelve souls aboard and one dying slowly in the med capsule below deck.

Another saying from her father crept into her mind: Thirteen. That’s an unlucky number.

The source of the argument stood at the far end of the table in front of the troopers. The female Royal Guard who brought her on board stood toe-to-toe with a tall, thin man with a bony face and wearing the finery of someone of importance in the Empire, or, at least, used to. He wagged his long, wiry finger in the face of her shroud and bellowed arrogance into her face behind it.

“—and command of this vessel is mine!” shouted the skeletal-looking man in flowing purple robes and a hat too large for his head. Meera noticed how it bobbled back and forth over his forehead as he shouted. His eyes were deep-sunk and blackened like a corpse.

“You bureaucrats disgust me,” she spat back, full of contempt. “You command nothing here, Aloo. Go back to your spice den.”

“You forget your place, Captain Krest! I am a Royal Imperial Adviser to the Emperor, himself! I will not tolera—”

Before he could finish the sentence, Krest drew a hidden vibroblade from her cloak and in one deft, lightning-fast stroke, held the razor-sharp edge to his neck, halting his words in his throat. Everyone froze, expecting a flick of her wrist to end his life at any second. The large hat Aloo wore tumbled to the floor as he jerked backward in surprise, terror filling his eyes.

“This is your one and only warning, you purple-clad buffoon…

…The Emperor is dead, and the Empire is no more. What you will not tolerate no longer concerns me, but what you will tolerate is my unquestioned command of this vessel and all aboard. Do not speak, but indicate that you understand me.” His head jiggled up and down in nervous agreement. “Good. I will not hesitate to end anyone who defies me.”

She reached up with her free hand and pulled her helmet off, tossing the red shroud to the floor with a hard thud of contempt. She had a short-cropped shock of bright red hair almost the same color as her uniform and penetrating golden eyes. A scar from a long-ago battle she won graced her forehead and cheek, almost in the same place Meera would now have one on hers.

She held the deadly blade steady at his throat; the slim steel shimmering with a bright silvered-blue edge. Krest looked around and addressed the throng in the room but never took the blade from his neck; the edge within a hair’s breadth of separating Aloo’s head from his body.

“The pretense of Imperial rule ceases now. The only orders that will be given concerning this vessel will be from me and no one else, regardless of whatever station they used to hold. Is that clear? Does anyone else wish to challenge me for command? I will accept your silence as compliance with my authority.”

The cabin was quiet as a crypt. Even the shuttle’s ion engines seemed to quiet down under her demands.

The two Majors stared blankly down at the table. The trooper and the technician looked at each other and he gave her a silent nod, as if to give approval of the new command situation and for her to go along. The helmeted troopers gave no indication of their feelings on the matter, and Aloo jiggled his head up and down in forced agreement. Krest lowered the vibroblade and hid it within her robes again.

“My blade thirsts. If she is unsheathed it again, blood will be required.” She rounded the table and took a seat at it’s head in a large, ornate chair—likely where the Emperor would sit while aboard. “You, medical officer. Join us.” She motioned Meera to the table’s only empty seat, leaving Aloo to stand against the wall where her vibroblade forced him to go. The disdain for this slight was written across his strangely-shaped face. Krest spoke up again, addressing the room.

“As I said before, the Emperor is dead. I saw him fall with my own eyes.”

“What happened? Weren’t you protecting him?” asked heavier Major with the strange mustache.

“Lord Vader brought the Jedi before him in the throne room. The Royal Guard was dismissed. It was not unusual for the Emperor to request privacy, especially in Lord Vader’s company. He orders, we obey.”

“So the Jedi killed him?” asked the technician with a twinge of apprehension.

“No,” replied Krest. “Lord Vader did.”

Lies!” Aloo shouted. A collective gasp went through the room. “Lord Vader is the right hand of the Emperor! He would never—”

“Silence, fool!” she snapped back. “It is the truth. Lord Vader has betrayed us all and brought this destruction upon us. He was in league with the Jedi.”

The room erupted again into shouting. She didn’t know how or why, but Meera could sense their fear, anger; their frustration and disbelief. For a moment, her eyes locked with Krest’s and Meera could see her thoughts. As the bickering continued around her, she tuned it out and focused on the piercing yellow eyes of Captain Krest. She was not telling them all she knew. It was difficult to discern, but something was still hidden. What was Krest up to?

Meera didn’t want to believe Lord Vader was a traitor. She tried to dismiss the notion, but something in the Captain’s eyes laid bare the truth.

Lord Vader truly had betrayed the Empire. He had betrayed them all.

“Stop… STOP!” Meera shouted. “ALL OF YOU! STOP!” Meera shouted. Everyone went silent and all eyes rested on her. “The Captain speaks the truth. I saw the Jedi bring Lord Vader into the hangar where I was rescued. He was injured and couldn’t walk. As the Jedi dragged him, he called out to me for help but I could not hear him. He removed Lord Vader’s helmet and took him away in a cargo shuttle. Lord Vader is dead, too. I saw it all, and I can’t believe it either, but… it’s true. Lord Vader has betrayed us all.”

“You would accept the word of this girl over mine?” Aloo said to the room with a gesture of frustration. Again, everyone looked down at the table as if it were suddenly the most interesting thing in the room. His protest was met with silence. A wicked smile curved across Krest’s face. She nodded in approval to Meera and faced Aloo. Her smirk angered him, but he acquiesced.

“Very well, Captain. If Lord Vader betrayed us and the Emperor is truly dead, we must now think to ourselves and our safety. The rebels will be emboldened to pursue us after such a victory. No doubt they detected our escape. This shuttle is equipped with the most advanced cloaking technology ever developed. I suggest we use it and maintain radio silence. Set course for Coruscant and the safety of the senate. They will protect us now.”

Meera couldn’t believe a member of the Emperor’s highest council could be so craven. “There are still Imperials dying out there. Our brothers and sisters need us, and you want to run away like some coward?”

Captain Krest sneered. “Oh Lieutenant, you couldn’t begin to comprehend the depth of his cowardice—”

“How dare you!?” Aloo shouted in disgust.

Krest leaned forward on the table, placing her palms down. “I dare a lot of things, Counselor. Such as I dare to inform this crew of you falling out of favor with the Emperor. Or how about that he stripped you of your title and station just before Lord Vader arrived with the Jedi? Even better, how about I tell them that the Emperor ordered your arrest for crimes against the Empire?”

“Preposterous allegations! Vicious lies!”

sim aloo
Treason! Royal Counselor Sim Aloo listens to the charges against him.

“Major Andalor,” she called out. “What was your job under the Empire?”

The younger Major, who had been silent through the whole ordeal sat forward; his eyes darting from face to face around the table. A cut to his forehead was accompanied by a bruise around his eye and cheek. Though he militarily out-ranked Krest, he obliged her with a timid answer.

“I… I was the second-in-command of the Emperor’s Archival and Antiquities Corps under Colonel Varon Seeda.”

“Major, tell us how you came to be on board this shuttle instead of going to your escape pod?”

He swallowed hard. “I was about my business, cataloging a rare artifact recovered from the Endor moon before the rebels attacked. I was packing it for safe keeping when I was stopped by Counselor Aloo. He… he told me the Emperor planned to leave immediately after his conference with Lord Vader and wanted to inspect the device we found personally. Counselor Aloo insisted I accompany him to wait aboard the shuttle for further instruction from the Emperor.”

Krest chided him while Aloo scowled. “Go on, Major. Finish your story.”

“I told him this order was most irregular, as I never travel with the Emperor… at least, not aboard his shuttle. I was with the advance intelligence team. We had our own transportation and always arrived ahead of him. This shuttle is only meant of the Emperor and his personal attendants. Not the likes of me.”

“And your face, Major. How did you get your injuries?”

Aloo interrupted. “What are you playing at, Krest? This is not some Senate trial!” The Captain leapt from her chair and shoved Aloo back against the wall again holding her forearm over his throat, pinning him there.

“Do not speak again, Counselor, or I will gut you where you stand! Major, …please continue,” she said through gritted teeth as she slowly restricted Aloo’s airway with her elbow.

“I told him no; that I would need to verify the order and finish my duties with the artifact. Then a Royal Guard attacked me… on his order.” Krest never took her eyes from Aloo. His were widening with anger or terror; Meera could not tell which.

“Major, the Royal Guard are loyal only to the Emperor. Yet you say Aloo had one following his command?” Krest asked.

“I couldn’t believe it either,” Andalor said, feeling a little more emboldened that Krest has Aloo by the throat. He stood and walked closer to them. Aloo’s eyes grew wide. “But there he was. The guard held me by my throat while Counselor Aloo attempted to take the artifact from the case I locked it in. It has a bio-lock on it only two people could open: the Emperor… and me. The guard knocked me out. When I came to, I was in the cargo hold below. I woke in time to see Aloo pull a blaster and shoot the guard multiple times. He got away, but was hurt. Well, I guess he didn’t get away from the explosion in the end.”

“This is preposterous! I never shot anyone,” Aloo shouted toward the Major. “I saved your life!”

“I warned you,” was all she said.

The vibroblade flashed a brilliant blue streak from beneath her tunic. It was so fast; Aloo never stood a chance. Krest stabbed him just below his belt and ripped upward to his neck. The last thing he saw was her golden eyes in focused contempt for his existence. He fell to the floor in a gushing pool of blood. Krest stood over him; her right arm from the elbow down drenched in a darker crimson than her uniform.

“Why did you do that?” shouted the mustached Major.

“There were multiple reasons, dear Major Deshkin, but primarily because he did not follow my instruction not to speak. Major Andalor?”

“Ma’am?” the timid Major replied.

“Is the artifact this Bantha fodder wanted from you still secure?” she asked, never taking her eyes from Aloo’s corpse.

“Yes, it’s here.” Andalor put a small durasteel box onto the table. The flashing red pad on top beckoned for a fingerprint to open it.

“Indulge our curious passengers, Major. Open it for us, if you please.” Krest wiped her blade off on the chunky purple hat Aloo wore and tossed it aside his gutted body on the floor. Major Andalor pressed his index finger to the pad and the light flashed from red to green. The latch popped, and the mechanical lid opened slowly. Nestled into a soft lining was a metal pyramid covered in archaic markings. A pulsing red glow showed through the edges of its metal casing.

“What is that?” asked the Maintenance Technician. “I’ve seen a lot of mechanical devices in my time, but nothing like that.”

holocron

“No, I should think not,” snarked Krest. “It is far older than you or I. To answer your question, however, it is a key. All we need are the instructions how to use it.”

“A key to what?” asked Major Deshkin. He picked it up from the case and held it aloft in both hands.

“You’ll find out soon enough. Sergeant Marillion,” Krest said to the Trooper at the table. “Tell the pilot to change our course for the Core. We’re going to Velusia. The next puzzle piece awaits us there.”

They were now down to twelve souls aboard. Her dad would have liked that number better. Meera looked down at Aloo’s corpse and could not help thinking to herself her luck may be changing after all.

Part III coming soon!

In part III, we’ll go back 5 years and meet then-Lieutenant Varon Seeda as he travels to Fortress Vader on Mustafar with a secret message that will send Darth Vader down a treasonous path. Stay tuned!

fortress vader

Disclaimer

The preceding is a work of fan fiction based upon and utilizing locations, characters, and/or plot points from the Star Wars universe, originally created by George Lucas and trademarked to Lucasfilm, Ltd. The author makes no claim whatsoever of ownership of the Star Wars name, characters represented, or the Star Wars universe generally. This work is created of the author’s own imagination and is intended for entertainment purposes only. It does not purport to be an “official” Star Wars story or part of existing Star Wars canon in any way. The author is not profiting financially in any way as the result of the creation or publication of this piece of fan fiction.

Lifeboat: A Star Wars Fan Fiction, Part I

The Death Star II in orbit over the forest moon of Endor, Outer Rim, Moddell sector – 4ABY

When the first explosion tore through the superstructure, the light panels above dislodged and collapsed down in a deadly pile of mangled steel over the surgical bay. A panel swung down with a hard smack to the side of her head, throwing Meera down like a rag doll across the cold, hard floor. A stinging gash opened across her cheek. She could feel the warm blood pooling on her face. The sharp blow made her world spin in lopsided circles. She fought the urge to pass out. Losing consciousness now would mean certain death. Meera had to get up. She had to move.

The operating room had collapsed around her in a tangle of twisted metal and sparking wires. Her patient, an injured Scout Trooper just brought up from the surface, lay crushed under a fallen structural beam. She grabbed his wrist looking for a pulse, but no doubt he was dead. Doctor Zed’orda was in mid-incision to close a torn artery when the ceiling fell in on them. No surgery could save him now. A blaring klaxon from overhead screamed at her through the carnage. Her ears rang in cadence with the piercing alarm blasts while a calming female voice reminded her she was about to die.

Warning… Abandon ship. Proceed orderly to your assigned escape pod. Warning… Abandon ship…

She spun around in a fog, knowing she was in danger but too dazed to react to it. She called out for the doctor but did not see him anywhere. Their medical droid lay in shattered pieces across the floor; its automated torso sparking and twitching in electronic agony as servo fluid poured out into the rubble. A loud metallic scrape drew her to look at the panel that hit her hanging by a thread, swaying above her with a broken rhythm. Behind it, across the room, she saw movement. A durasteel pipe lay across Zed’orda’s upper body, pinning him to the floor and stealing the air from his lungs. The injured doctor strained against its bulk but the conduit would not move. He yelled at her in a strained and airless rasp. She could see his mouth moving but could not hear his words.

“Meera, go! I can’t… get… out. You have to… you have to… go! Get… to… your pod!” She began pulling pieces aside in a staggered frenzy to get to him. Small shards of broken metal and glass chewed at her fingers as she clawed her way through the burning wreckage. All the while, the same calm voice from overhead reminded her of their deteriorating situation.

Warning… Abandon ship. Proceed orderly to your assigned escape pod. Warning… Abandon ship…

The next explosion shook the structure so hard, the station began to list. The artificial gravity was failing and soon they would lose orbital stability. The station was falling apart around them. All she could see was more rubble while smoke and dust filled her lungs. Sheared steel and electronic detritus collapsed in the med bay in a new shower of sparks and fire. The doctor was underneath most of the carnage. Through the dust, she could make out his gloved hand sticking out of the debris. It hung bloody and lifeless.

She could feel it. He was dead, too.

A purpose suddenly flooded through her. The second Death Star was collapsing around Lieutenant Meera Dyre of the 804th Imperial Medical Brigade, and if she didn’t find a way out, she would die where she stood. A large med-pack lay at her feet in the rubble. She pulled out a Bacta syringe and jammed it into her neck. The throbbing in her head immediately subsided enough to focus. She grabbed up the med-pack and slung the strap on her shoulder and scanned the room for a way out. She climbed over a busted control panel, through the med bay window, and into the hallway. Meanwhile, the friendly overhead voice continually reminded her of impending doom between deafening alarm blasts.

Warning… Abandon ship. Proceed orderly to your assigned escape pod. Warning… Abandon ship…

The smoke was thick. Meera struggled to get her bearings in the hallway and was startled by the sudden appearance of a Storm Trooper barreling down on her. He emerged from the smoke and showers of sparks like an armored ghost, wearing battle-worn white plastoid streaked with blood. In the middle of his chest armor was a perfect hand print, pressed in the red of some other poor soul’s demise. He ran towards her in a panic.

“Move! MOVE!” came the digitized and muffled voice from behind his helmet. “You can’t go that way! There’s nothing left back there. Follow me… this way!” He grabbed her arm, spinning her in the opposite direction. Pain shot through it like a bolt of lightning.

Aaaagh!”, she cried out and looked down to see her bloody uniform shirt sleeve. The trooper had grabbed a gash on her arm that she hadn’t even noticed, nor did she feel the pain of until he grabbed her. She recoiled from him. “My escape pod is back the way you came. What’s happening out there?”

He didn’t answer. The Trooper looked back at her for a moment, then continued to run on without her. She lost sight of him after a few steps into the thickening smoke. The gash on her arm seared with pain.

Warning… Abandon ship. Proceed orderly…

“Can’t worry about that now, Meera,” she said to herself. She tightened up the strap of the med-pack and continued in the same direction the Storm Trooper had run.

Her mind raced to figure out what was happening. Reports of a rebel fleet emerging from hyperspace to attack them came over the comms, but Doctor Zed’orda just laughed. “They wouldn’t dare attack us here. Our defenses would annihilate them in an instant. Someone is having a joke.” Obviously, he was wrong and was now dead because of it. Perhaps the rebels have already boarded the station and were sabotaging it with explosives. She picked up an abandoned E-11 from a dead Storm Trooper in the hall, just in case. Injured or not, she would not go down without a fight. At the next T-junction, she could just make out directional signage through the smoke. To the left was the mess hall and barracks. To the right were the armory and hanger bay 272. A hangar bay! Surely there would be pods there or even a ship. She turned to the right and ran.

The wide hall was littered with metal and debris from the destruction happening around her. Sparks flew from the overhead conduit and electrical panels in the walls. Fires burned up through the floor. The burned and broken bodies of fallen Imperials were strewn about everywhere. She stopped to check vitals on the ones she could get to, hoping to save someone, or at least find someone alive, but it was useless. All life signs were negative. The explosion that collapsed the med bay must have been worse in this section, taking out anyone caught in the hallway with it.

Abandon ship. Proceed to your assigned escape pod

“I’m going to find the communication officer that recorded that message and strangle her,” Meera muttered as two more successive explosions ripped through the hallway. One came from back at the junction she just passed through and the other ahead in the direction she was going. The blast knocked her into the wall and sprawling on the floor, taking her breath away. Her lungs burned as her body struggled to find air. Staggered and gasping from the impact, she willed her battered body upright and continued ahead.

The explosions subsided for a while as she moved toward the hangar. The air hung heavy with smoke, clouding anything more than a few feet in front of her. She took quick but measured steps to avoid injuring herself any further. Another blast like the last one would likely be her end. After what seemed an eternity, she finally saw the faint blue glow of a directional kiosk that would tell her how much further to the hangar, or if she was even still going the right way. Her pace quickened, and as soon as she got up some speed, her foot caught on something heavy. She sprawled across the floor yet again. Her arm burned like fire where she fell on top of it. Looking back, she saw what she tripped on.

She recognized the bloody hand print on his chest. The Storm Trooper she met in the hall earlier lay in a heap under some rubble. That last blast must have gotten him. His arm protruded out at an awkward angle where she caught her foot. She crawled over to him and pulled his helmet off, hoping he would still be alive. His blank and lifeless eyes stared straight up into nothingness. She checked his pulse at his neck and found none. The trooper was gone. Though scarred, his face looked so young; too young to die like this. She ran her hand over his eyes, closing them for the final time. “We didn’t deserve this, did we?” she asked the dead man. “What is galactic peace and security really worth if this is the thanks we get for it?” The overhead klaxon rudely answered, reminding her she was still in danger.

Warning… Abandon ship. Proceed to your assigned escape pod…Warning…

“You were too late this time, Meera,” she said aloud to herself. “Now get up before the same thing happens to you. Move!”

On her feet again, she went more carefully forward this time until she could make out the shape of the large blast doors at the end of the hall. Above it was a sign reading Hangar Bay 272. She broke into a run, slamming into the door release panel. The blast doors hesitated, then slowly crawled open. Meera could hear more explosions back the way she came. A cloud of black smoke came rolling down the hall towards the door, blotting out the light behind. She went to the narrow opening of the doors, forcing her way through the slit and into the hangar bay. Black smoke and heat erupted through behind her like a Krayt Dragon was chasing her down. What she now saw was worse.

Fire and chaos reigned. The huge room was swarming with panicked Imperials running in every direction trying to escape. Some officers tried to maintain order and organize scurrying troops, but it was no use. The sound of the battle raged outside the shielded bay opening. Ships of all sizes and types were taking off. At least I’m not the only one left, she thought. Then she saw it. A TIE Fighter sat at the back of the hangar, still attached to a refueling tank in a mechanic’s bay. No one was around or seemed to notice it. That’s my ticket out of here, she thought.

Warning… Abandon ship...

She didn’t know how to fly it, but if she was going to survive, it was the only option. She ran toward it as fast as she could, only to see movement in the cockpit. Damn the luck… someone was already in it! The ion engines fired and the machine lurched forward, snapping off the fuel line. Roaring flame shot from the hose where the fuel ignited, spewing fire across the bay like the Krayt Dragon had found her again. The TIE shot forward and roared out of the hangar at high speed. She stood in shock and anger, watching it soar off just as an rebel X-Wing fighter crossed its path from above, firing all four cannons at once and destroying it instantly.

She looked around again. There had to be something else. Near the front by where the TIE flew out was a small shuttle. It was over a hundred yards from where she stood. Flaming debris rained down above it, but the ship appeared intact. Even if it was damaged, anything was better than nothing. She ran toward it as another explosion shot debris through the air in front of her, the searing heat pushing her back.

She lay there a moment, trying to recover her wits when the hangar door across from her slid open. A man ran in with his eye on the same shuttle, but he was not Imperial. His uniform was all black yet had no insignia. A prisoner, maybe? The holding cells were one deck below the hangar. If the security locks failed, the scoundrels imprisoned there would be looking for a way out, too. Suddenly, he looked right at her and saw she eyeing the shuttle as well. She could not make out his face, but it didn’t matter who he was. Whoever got up the cargo ramp first was getting that shuttle, and he was closer to it than her. It was now or never.

Meera got to her feet and sprinted across the floor like a scalded Dewback. The race was on.

He sprinted to the shuttle, too, and opened the hatch. The ramp lowered down and Meera ran harder to her maximum speed. Then he did something completely unexpected. He went back to the hangar door and started dragging a wounded soldier through it towards the ramp. He was struggling with the bulk. This was her chance! If she could get there before him, her escape was guaranteed. If not, she could barter medical assistance for the wounded man as her ticket, but, either way, she was getting on that shuttle. She was gaining ground and surmised they would now get to the ramp at the same time. Whoever he was, it seemed they would be sharing the ride after all. Suddenly, Meera skidded to a stop and her feet slipped out from under her on the polished bay floor, sending her sliding onto her backside. Her eyes widened as terror took over when she recognized him.

It was the Jedi prisoner, Skywalker! She also recognized the wounded man he was struggling with. It was Lord Vader!

The prospect of being cut down by the Jedi was more terrifying than the Death Star exploding around her. He beckoned to her and began to say something, but Meera couldn’t hear him. She was already up and running the other direction to get away. If this Jedi could defeat Lord Vader, she would make easy prey; even with her Imperial combat training. Ducking into a nearby stack of cargo containers, she hid and watched.

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The Jedi dragged him to the ramp and stopped. They were speaking, but she could not hear what was said through the deafening sound of firing turbo lasers. The chaotic scene she had walked into suddenly became calm. Vader was seriously injured; that was easy enough to tell, but somehow, she could also feel it. She could feel the burning sensation of electricity coursing through him. She could sense his mechanical parts trying desperately to keep him alive, injecting bacta and interfacing with his nervous system. The Jedi took off his helmet.

Vader was in great pain; more than any human could endure. Yet there he lay, as calm and serene as one could be. She sensed a peace wash over him; a finality. No, not finality—relief. His spirit was ebbing and he was not fighting it. His final fate was welcomed. He was speaking to the Jedi. She could not hear the words, but she knew what he said all the same.

“You were right about me. Tell your sister…you were right.” She did not know what he meant by that, but she felt his last breath ease out as he lay in the arms of the murderous Jedi. Meera crossed paths only once with Lord Vader in her short time on the Death Star, and he was nothing like the vicious rumors whispered in the trooper ranks. Darth Vader was her commander. He cared about the Empire. He cared for his soldiers. Her division marched side-by-side with his vaunted 501st Legion. Vader’s Fist, they were called. She patched up many of those brave troopers on his peace-keeping missions against this evil rebellion. The Empire must know who struck down their beloved leader, so he could be brought to justice. Someone must report what happened here. For Lord Vader’s sake, Meera had to survive. A tear rolled down her soot-covered cheek in reverence for the Sith Lord. Like so many other Imperials this day, Darth Vader was dead.

Skywalker dragged Vader’s limp body up the ramp and closed it for take off. Why was he taking the body? Probably some fiendish bounty or personal glory, the Jedi bastard! Then, with a blast of ion fusion, the engines launched the shuttle out into space. They were gone.

Suddenly, another explosion shot fire across the hangar. The Death Star was failing.

If she was to report anything to anyone, she had to get off this dying battle station. She looked around again to see no ships remained. Her only hope now was to find a pod. Across the far side of the hanger, a white arrow streaked across the floor etched with the words ‘emergency exit.’ Meera could not see where it led through all the smoke, but at this point, it made no difference.

Hoping to find something that could fly; anything at all, she just ran. She leaped over burning crates and supply canisters as she moved across the fire-streaked landscape of Hangar 272. Finally, she could see the outer wall. The escape pods—if any were left—would be here. With the loading chute to her right and the cold vacuum of space on her left, she turned to run toward the chute when she heard a woman’s voice call out behind her.

“You! Medical officer! Come quickly… I need you!”

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She turned and was shocked to see the bright red uniform of the Emperor’s Elite Royal Guard. Meera had only ever seen them from a distance, and never heard one speak. Across her shoulders was the arm of another helmeted Royal Guard, head hanging and slouched. He was unconscious and wounded.

“Take me to the nearest medical capsule, now!” she ordered. Meera ran to assist by going under the injured guard’s other arm. She pointed toward the back wall.

“This way. All hangars have a crash locker in case of accidents, though that won’t matter if we don’t get to an escape pod now!” Meera struggled under the weight of the much larger guard. She could not see a wound, but her tunic was smeared with blood where she held him up. He was bleeding profusely from somewhere.

“We don’t need an escape pod. Focus, girl—get me to that med locker!”

Together they dragged the wounded guard to the back wall where Meera punched in her identification code on a flashing panel. The door hissed open, and she snatched a green control pad from the wall. The repulsor lift underneath the medical capsule sparked to life and hovered to her side. She grabbed another med-pack from the wall and headed back out. They lowered him inside and she jabbed two vials of bacta into his shoulder. The triage program hummed to life, and the report came back dismal. Meera shook her head. “He’s bleeding bad. I can stabilize him for now, but like I said, it won’t matter unless we can all get out of here!”

“Do your job, medic,” the woman said, “and there will be a place for you on our shuttle. Save him, or perish. The choice is yours.”

Her hands shook as she punched in more codes. The female guard stood silently over the med capsule watching her every move. The explosions in the hangar subsided for the moment, but the station was breaking apart. Shudders vibrated through every strut and pillar. Suddenly, a feeling swept over Meera that she could not ignore.

“His wounds are serious. He’s going to need surgery, but we don’t have that kind of time. Something tells me the station only has minutes left…”

“I sense it as well. The rebels have reached the station’s power core. The central cooling towers are ruptured.” Meera was taken back a moment by her matter-of-fact tone and lack of questions about her feeling. “Quickly, this way.”

The guard took off double-time toward the far wall, where a blast door clearly marked No Admittance stood closed. She manipulated the keypad, placing her hand over the bio-scanner and opening the door. There, in the center of this hidden hangar, stood the massive folded wings and tail fin of an executive-model Lambda Class 4-a shuttle. They both ran to it, with the hovering med capsule matching pace alongside. The isolated hangar was serene, as if the fury of the battle going outside passed it by.

The guard yelled, sensing what Meera was thinking. “This hangar is ray shielded, but that won’t last when the Death Star destabilizes.” At that moment, the shuttle’s engines started up in preparation for take-off.

“Oh no… no…NO,” Meera said aloud. “Not again. They’re leaving us!”

“They can’t leave without the Emperor’s code cylinder, and I have it.”

“Wait, this is the Emperor’s shuttle?!?”

“He won’t be needing it any longer. The Emperor is dead. Now shut up and move faster!”

Meera’s step stuttered, but she kept going. The news sent her mind reeling with shock. The Emperor is dead? Impossible—the Emperor is the Empire! How could this happen? Without him, everything would fail! The galaxy would fall to chaos! How could the rebels have succeeded in killing him? Was he not well-protected? Suddenly, a realization struck her.

The Jedi. He must be responsible for this.

Meera felt grateful simply to be alive after her encounter with him. He is powerful, indeed if he bested Lord Vader and the Emperor. Skywalker would be the most wanted man in the history of the galaxy when the Senate found out about this assassination. No star system could hide him from the wrath of the Empire. Then another realization came. These guards must have fought him and failed, too. That meant the wounds she would be treating were from a lightsaber. The guard would be lucky to survive the trauma, as the two most powerful beings in the Empire did not.

“The Jedi didn’t kill the Emperor. Lord Vader did. Now stop thinking and run!” the guard commanded. How did she know what Meera was thinking?

They reached the bottom of the shuttle ramp, where two red-armored Storm Troopers stood guard. The Royal Guard ran between them. When Meera touched the ramp, the troopers leveled their blasters directly at her head. She froze mid-step and the med capsule mimicked her movement, coming to a halt.

“She’s with me. Let her board,” the guard called back down to the troopers. “She tends to Captain Vario.”

“No one boards without a dignitary code cylinder or permission from the Emperor, himself,” the trooper snapped back.

“The Emperor is dead, fools! We will be too if this shuttle doesn’t take off. Let her board—now!

As if timed with her warning, a massive explosion rocked the hangar. The ray shield began to falter, and the hangar shook violently. With some trepidation, the troopers relented and pulled back their E-11’s, allowing Meera to pass. They followed her up the ramp, closing it behind them as another explosion shook the ship. Smoke poured in as the ramp raised up and sealed for take off. The engines engaged and the shuttle launched in a streak of light from the collapsing hangar bay. Meera ran back to the cargo door and looked through the narrow viewing glass just in time to see the beginning of the end of the Galactic Empire.

meera's eyes

Mushroomed clouds of fire erupted out of every visible surface on the doomed battle station. Then, in a brilliant burst of light, the moon-sized planet killer detonated into a fireball that rivaled a type-2 supernova. After all she had been through, Meera would survive after all. However, the Death Star—and the Empire with it—were no more.

Lifeboat: Part II coming soon! Stay tuned to find out what happens next!

Disclaimer

The preceding is a work of fan fiction based upon and utilizing locations, characters, and/or plot points from the Star Wars universe, originally created by George Lucas and trademarked to Lucasfilm, Ltd. The author makes no claim whatsoever of ownership of the Star Wars name, characters represented, or the Star Wars universe generally. This work is created of the author’s own imagination and is intended for entertainment purposes only. It does not purport to be an “official” Star Wars story or part of existing Star Wars canon in any way. The author is not profiting financially in any way as the result of the creation or publication of this piece of fan fiction.

I walked one 1 mile on the Appalachian Trail (and why it matters, too) Part II

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29 Dec 18 – Not long ago, I met a lady that summited Lobuche in Nepal. Lobuche is a mountain on the Everest Base Camp trek. Yes, that Everest. Mount Everest… the Roof of the World. She, along with her cousin and some climbing friends made the long trip halfway around the world to take the peak of that 20,075-foot mountain. And they did. I learned after hearing her Lobuche story that prior to that, she took a trip to Africa to the 19,341-foot summit of Mount Kilimanjaro.  It was fascinating to hear her stories of how she would choose her destination, set her climbing goals, plans her trips, and then conquers whatever mountain is next on her list. Those feats are impressive, at least to me anyway.

I mention her story not because I want to do what she has done. As I said in part one of this blog, I am not that ambitious. I can live out my days not having climbed over 20,000 feet up a snowed and iced mountain of death and be perfectly content with that decision. I tell you about her because I admire the ambition she has to hit those goals. The desire to go and see and do something you might not ever get the chance to again. Those were items on her “list”. That is the type of goal-setting I’m trying to achieve for myself. The goals I want to accomplish before it’s time to punch my ticket… my bucket list.

I whetted my appetite for the Appalachian Trail in Vermont right before Christmas. Even though those initial 100 yards checked off an item, it just felt incomplete. Like my inner-Tim “The Tool Man” Taylor was grunting at me for stopping there. About four hours from where I live is the peak of Springer Mountain, standing at 3,782 feet above sea level. She’s nestled in the Chattahoochee National Forest, which is part of the Blue Ridge Mountains in northern Georgia.  Believe me when I tell you it is in the middle of the area that is formerly known as the middle of nowhere. At least it felt like it. Oh, and did I mention that it is the southern terminus of the Appalachian Trail? How convenient. Now I can make a bigger check mark on this bucket-lister!

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After talking my youngest son into going on this adventure with me, we grabbed a few items for the trip and off we went. He was a little reluctant at first, not knowing what he was about to get in to, but finally relented. We got a late start that morning, leaving home about 9:30am. Sunset was at 5:02pm that day. With the distance and time zone change, we would be racing the sun to reach the peak and get back off the mountain by dark. Time was against us, but wasn’t going to stop us. Again, undaunted, our heroes plunged on!

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After a long and winding drive through the beautiful Chattahoochee National Forest, at long last we finally arrived at the trail parking area about 2:45pm Eastern time. In the six mile drive up the mountain you gain about 1,200 feet on hard-packed dirt and gravel called Forest Service Road 42-3. I will give credit where it is due… whoever maintains that road does a marvelous job. It’s somewhat daunting, being just wide enough for one vehicle the majority of the way with occasional pull-offs where you could let cars coming down the mountain go by. We met a few on the way up, and the conditions were wet and muddy. I wouldn’t call it “white-knuckle driving”, however, there were some unsettling moments. In the end, we made it to the packed parking lot and were ready to start our trek to the peak. I was excited… I was getting ready to be on the AT once again!

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From the parking lot to the peak is about one mile. One of the websites I researched this trip on gave the trail to the peak a moderately strenuous rating, however I did not find it to be that difficult other than just going steadily uphill. It was wet and muddy in parts, but that wasn’t going to stop us. The peak was our prize and wet socks were but a penance to be able to say we conquered this mountain! At the beginning of our ascent, a group of about thirty college-aged people passed us on the way down. They were talking and carrying on as we passed by, but once they got out of earshot, I noticed something that I became aware of the rest of the entire time we were on the trail… the quiet.

Whatever noises you would hear up there were the ones you brought with you. The day was cool, with temperatures in the mid-’40s, slightly overcast skies and a light breeze. That breeze is the only thing you could hear. There were no birds, no planes, no sounds of civilization, just the light breeze making its way across the hillsides and giving the trees a gentle sway. It was a deafening silence, and it was amazing.

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We passed a few other people on our way up. Small groups of two or three, and some families, all out enjoying this beautiful day just as we were. The occasional friendly greeting was the only sound we heard making our way up. After about 30 minutes of our steady uphill climb, we passed two young ladies on their descent who kindly informed us we were about 100 feet from the top, and no one else was up there right now. We stopped for a quick water break and I looked out into the horizon through the leafless trees. I introspected on how Benton Mackaye and Myron Avery determined this place to be the southern terminus of their trail. What I had first thought of as just the middle of nowhere was becoming the perfect place to end it, and there was no better place on Earth to be right then other than where I was standing. I had to imagine they thought the same thing when laying out this amazing trail. The peak was within sight, so up we went.

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Throughout our history, man has created some amazingly beautiful spiritual buildings. Each is unique and beautiful in its own way, and many of the older ones have long and storied histories. I’ve been blessed to see inside several different ones of all shapes and sizes, and of different denominations. One thing I have not been to, however, is the top of many mountains. If I can be so bold to make a comparison, the top of a mountain has to be nature’s most spiritual place. Though this mountain is not the highest or most difficult to climb, none of that takes away from the feeling you get in your soul to sit quietly at the top and look out onto the world.

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At the top of this particular mountain, I was experiencing another feeling. I wasn’t just checking off another item on my bucket list. I was feeling closure. I didn’t realize, nor fully appreciate, how the research work I did on this historic landmark had opened up a need to experience it. I’ve always wanted to hike it, and for weeks this trail and its stories consumed my entire work life. I would compare it to a lifetime Red Sox fan getting to go to a game at Fenway Park for the first time. You just can’t describe it… you have to feel it to understand. It’s not just pictures on a screen or words on a page. It’s a real place and I’m here, and in this moment, there is no place I’d rather be.

We had the peak to ourselves for about 20 minutes, just taking it in. Sitting on the rock at the center of the overlook, I happened to notice to my left this little trap door. Inside was a visitor log book. Not uncommon throughout the entire AT. They can be found at almost every trailhead or shelter along the way. I started looking through the pages to see what others had written. Several were just signatures and dates, where they were from. Some had encouraging or spiritual messages, birthdays, even marriage proposals as you can see below. I sat and read through some of it just to see what others had to say. Suffice it to say, there were some neat things in there. The book was full so I went back a few pages to leave our mark. Nothing prophetic or poetic. Just a little something saying we were here, and we loved it.

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The sun was sinking quickly and it was time to head home. We took a few more pictures, gathered our things, and started back the same way we came for the journey home. At about the same spot we stopped for our earlier water break, we passed three guys coming up. We conveyed the same message we had received earlier, that they only had about 100 feet to go and they would have the peak to themselves. From there on out, we only saw two other people. Now we had the trail to ourselves. It was just as tranquil on the way down as we made our way to the car.

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Now I have officially hiked 100 yards plus one mile on the Appalachian Trail.  There’s a bigger check mark on my bucket list I’m dang proud of it. My son asked me on the way home if I was planning to hike any more of the trail. I thought about it for a little bit before I answered. I’m sure the opportunity will present itself again. I told him I probably would and maybe next time we’ll bring gear and plan it as an over-nighter or maybe we can do part of it over spring break. He jokingly said if you’re going to do that, why not just plan to thru-hike it. I laughed. I like his way of thinking, but I’m not that ambitious.

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I’m not normally a selfie person, but in this case, I made an exception.

I walked 100 yards on the Appalachian Trail (and why it matters), Part I

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Dec. 21, 2018 – Everyone has thought about, at some time or another, what would be on their “bucket list”. At the ripe old age of 44, I have yet to make one on paper. However, I have a few ideas swirling around my head of certain things I’d like to accomplish before my time on the third rock from the sun is up.

One of those swirling bucket ideas is to perform the American National Anthem at a major sporting event. I would gladly do it anywhere there is an opportunity, but I’m a big hockey fan at heart. I’d love to belt one out on center ice. I even hedged my bet and learned the Canadian National Anthem as well, just in case I ever get the chance!

Another long-time item on my list is to become a published author. That’s a goal I work towards every day, even if it’s only a little tiny bit. I try to write at least one thing daily and I set regular benchmarks for myself. I tested those goals in 2017 when I wrote 51,055 words in 30 days for NaNoWriMo. I’m still proud of that one!

Recently I was fortunate enough to accomplish one item on my list. For the longest time, I’ve wanted to hike a portion of the Appalachian Trail. I do quite a few short day hikes or overnighters with my Boy Scout troop at nearby State Parks, and they’re great, but to trek the AT… now that is some real hiking! Up until now, I would have classified this as a passive bucket-lister. It was on the periphery… one that I wanted to do but I didn’t actively seek to check it off. It was more like a target of opportunity should the occasion arise. Then, one day, it moved from passive to very active.

For my day job, I am a programmer for my city’s Parks and Recreation department (writing doesn’t pay the bills…yet!). One of my 2018 programs was a “virtual walk” of all 2,158 miles of the AT. The southern terminus is at the peak of Springer Mountain in north Georgia, and continues all the way up the eastern United States, with the northern terminus at the peak of Mount Katahdin in Maine. Teams of six people would sign up and count all their miles collectively toward the goal of “walking” the trail. In the end, over 300 people teamed up for the walk, covering over an impressive 50,000 miles as a group, and fun was had by all.

During the program, I had to do a lot of research for the weekly e-newsletters on the trail and some of the better highlights of its history. Each week of the walk, every participant received an email with the current standings, trail facts, silly hiking memes and stories from the trail. Over the course of my work, I caught the bug. The more research I did, the more I wanted to push the needle from this is something I’d like to do over to this is something I have done.  Not the whole trail, mind you. I’m not that ambitious. But hiking a small section would satisfy my curiosity and put a checkmark on my mental bucket list. Then, suddenly, it happened. While perusing a trail-finder website one afternoon, an opportunity appeared like a distant ship on the horizon.

My oldest son currently lives in Woodstock, Vermont, which also happens to be an AT “trail town” along with Barnard, Vermont. Woodstock is to the south of the trailhead, and Barnard to the north and the AT passes right between them. It just so happened that my wife and I were planning a visit to Woodstock right before Christmas this year.

Do you hear that?

Hear that sound?

That would be the soft  knock of opportunity!

I had a six-day window to answer that door. I packed my hiking boots and some halfway decent winter garb, hopped on a plane, and off we went. Upon arriving in Woodstock, I waited for a some decent weather and set out to find the trail off of Barnard Road/US-12.

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A few days before our arrival, a snowstorm passed through the area dumping about a foot of snow. The day before we went in search of the trailhead was rainy and warmer, causing a lot of snow melt and high water everywhere. Suffice it to say, I did not have high expectations with the weather conditions of what we would find. This was truly meant to be a “let’s-just-say-we-were-here” kind of stop. After passing it a couple of times (we didn’t have a GPS), I noticed this little sign (above) behind the guard rail. We finally found it!

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A small wooden bridge crossed a raging creek, through a gate, out into an open field and up a low hill. After eight weeks of researching and newsletters and pomp and circumstance about the Appalachian Trail, I was finally walking on part of it! Now you can tell by the photos that I wasn’t joking about conditions. Under that snow over the bridge is about an inch of solid ice. The snow was packed and crunchy. Every step was like walking on a floor that gave way under each footfall, about eight inches down. Then you had to try not to slip while taking your next step. The temperature was sitting right about 35 degrees, and I forgot to bring a jacket with me. But undaunted, our hero plunged on!

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I’m sure to most, these just look like 100 yards worth of tracks through the snow, and it could be anywhere the white stuff falls, in any field, in any part of the world. However, these were my tracks on this national treasure of a trail fulfilling one of my bucket list items. My wife and son were in the car watching me tromp through the snow and ice, probably thinking, “Look at that idiot going off in the snow, and without a jacket even…”. It could have been waist-deep and I still would have done it. It could have been below freezing and I would still have gone up there. All the maple syrup in Vermont would not have kept me from walking up that hill, just so I could say “I was here, and this is what I did”.

As I’ve gotten older, I am more of a mind that material things are less valuable to me than experiences. I’d like to think I’m not alone in that thought process. That meager 100 yards was meaningful to me. It took all the reading, research and effort I put into that AT walking program and made it a real, tangible thing. It’s a real place in this wide world of ours and not just something on the other end of a keyboard.

If you haven’t thought about your bucket list yet, I encourage you to do so. Not as some sort of race against the grim reaper to see how much you can get in before he comes knocking, but as a scorecard of sorts. To give anything and everything you’ve ever wanted to encounter a chance to be realized. Go somewhere and experience it, even if it is only 100 yards at a time.

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My AT journey doesn’t end here!

My trip to Springer Mountain is coming in Part II.

To be continued…

Old books can be the best books

If you’ve read my other posts, you might already know I have an affinity for books over other mediums for story-telling. I particularly like hardcovers, but it’s not a requirement for me to read it. The allure is simply having the paper in my hands. I’m not much of a collector of anything anymore, but I will occasionally pick up a book to add to my small pile of stories I like to read now and then.

I am in possession of several books that belonged to my Great-Grandmother. As a child, I remember at her house a literal floor to ceiling built-in book shelf that towered over the console television in her living room. It was full of old tomes from her childhood up to mine. Some were leather bound and well-worn. Some were newer books with modern dust jackets. Some were small paperbacks. It contained a full works of Shakespeare and Edgar Allen Poe to The Hardy Boys and Nancy Drew for young readers. One day, as an adult, I started thumbing through a few of the ones I still have and discovered something I didn’t remember seeing before.

She had gone through and written her name in some of them. Some were inscribed to her from friends. Some were inscribed to others in the family and some were inscribed by the authors themselves. How could I have missed this before? How could I not have noticed this in all those years as a little boy looking through books I couldn’t even read yet? Suddenly that dusty old volume had a new point of interest. Who owned it before? Who was it a gift from? Not all of them had it but some did. Now it became a hunt to see how many I could find.

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This book was a gift to my Great-Grandmother from her long-time family doctor’s wife, who also happened to be her backyard neighbor.

I found quite a few with names I didn’t recognize, or from people she must have known that I’ve now forgotten. Some are from relatives who passed long before me. One of my personal favorites is depicted below. The book is called Poems of the South by Col William Lightfoot Visscher. When I cracked this book open, I was amazed at what I found. It was a trove of its own history.

Inside the cover was an index-like card containing a quote dated June 19, 1923 by Frank Murray that reads “Judicious silence is much better than truth spoken without charity”. The handwriting, after comparison with other writings, belongs to my 2nd Great-Grandfather John Baskerville. On the next blank page inside the cover is an inscription from him to his son, my Great-Grandfather, Jim Baskerville. The on the opposite page is an inscription to John from the author himself, whom he refers to as “Col Visch”.

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Inside cover inscription written by my 2nd Great-Grandfather, John Baskerville
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Poems of the South and Other Verse by Col William Lightfoot Visscher. The author’s inscription reads: My Dear John Baskerville, I would not fear to wager something valuable that you can find times in this book that will clutch at your old Virginia heart. This because I wrote them from a heart that warms at the thought of the dear old south of the day, when you and I were young. Anyhow, I send you the book with the best wishes that I have on tap, and at this writing the memory of pleasant hours in your company, being of unusual congeniality. Cordially, Wm. Lightfoot Visscher, Chicago, January 1, 1922.
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Author’s obituary, dated February 11th, 1924

It seems they were friends at some time and must have had a journey together, or at the least, they were more than just a passing acquaintance. The penmanship of the author is exquisite and his words flow right off the page. I can almost hear the Kentucky drawl he undoubtedly had while I read it. People don’t talk (or write) like that much anymore. It wasn’t until months after finding the inscriptions in the front that I found the author’s obituary in the back, which for me, painted the rest of a story I might not otherwise have ever known.

Last month I had the pleasure to meet Mrs. Lynne Tolley. Her name may not strike a bell, but I can promise you her famous uncle’s does. She came to speak at a luncheon about him and her experience being related to the most famous whiskey-maker in the world, Mr. Jack Daniel. She is his Great-Grandniece and still works at the Jack Daniel distillery, about 20 miles from where I am now sitting. While having lunch with her, we talked about all sorts of things before the subject turned to family heirlooms. I assumed being in the position she was in the Daniel lineage, she would have some significant items. I was right about that.

Among the many things she has that passed down from him through the family, one particular item stood out to me. She has a first edition of Ben-Hur, published in 1880 written by Lew Wallace. That alone is a valuable item, however, what else was in it makes it even more valuable and unique. Jack Daniel inscribed his copy with his signature in four different places in the book, as well as some other notes. It’s obvious by his note in the back cover it was valuable to him as well.

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Ben-Hur First Edition, owned by Jack Daniel. Photo courtesy of Lynne Tolley.
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Ben-Hur First Edition, owned by Jack Daniel. Photo courtesy of Lynne Tolley.
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Inside cover inscription. I love the way he talks about the day. He must have really liked this book! Ben-Hur First Edition, owned by Jack Daniel. Photo courtesy of Lynne Tolley.
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Rear cover inscription. Ben-Hur First Edition, owned by Jack Daniel. Photo courtesy of Lynne Tolley.

Next time you see an old book laying around, don’t judge it by the cover. Take a look inside. It may have more of a story to tell than just the title on the binding.

Researching your book when you don’t realize you’re researching your book.

Research can be a daunting task, no matter the subject. Whether it’s 16th century art or whitewater rafting or current political climate, every subject requires some knowledge and occasionally putting your boots on the ground to get dirty doing it. A couple years ago, an idea for a fantasy story came to me when I learned the lyrics to The Trees by Rush. (Songs can be a great source of inspiration by the way, but that’s a topic for another thread!) I jotted down some notes on the idea and filed them away for a future writing session.

The idea of being a life-long learner was instilled in me long ago. I was a terrible student in high school, so I attempt to make up for that in my adult years by taking more than a passive interest in all the things I find to be “cool”. Most recently, I enrolled in the Tennessee Naturalist program offered through our wonderful State Parks here. My intent was to learn a little more than I already do about my local natural surroundings, but there was another benefit I did not intend.

The most recent class I attended was on forestry and tree identification. The group met at the Fiery Gizzard trail head in Tracy City, Tennessee. It is a very popular hiking trail (evidenced by all the other hikers we encountered that morning) and has some beautiful scenery to take in. We met under the pavilion on the well-kept grounds of the small park and began our induction into forestry.

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We started our 2.2-mile tree identification trek here. I found it comical that “hazzards” is misspelled, but I don’t judge!

Our instructor for this class was a forestry professor from University of the South at Sewanee, a very knowledgeable guy that could name most every tree we passed with a quick glance. Over the entire hike, I really did learn a lot that I didn’t know. I came into this excursion with a good working knowledge of most trees and found some of the information to be gee-whiz nuggets I did not already possess. Then suddenly, we stopped to admire a very healthy stand of Reindeer Lichen and he said something that put me in book research mode.

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The gnarled and intertwined root systems you find on almost any forested trail in the United States.

While looking at the lichen, he asked us to look at our feet. We were standing on the trail in a large mass of twisted roots from several different species of trees that were exposed above ground. Years of hikers stepping on them had worn down the bark and left woody scars with every footfall. His next sentence was very profound. He said, “The best way we can diagnose the health and wellness of a forested area is not what is happening above the ground, but below it.” He said that recent research on some western forests in the U.S. have been able to prove that trees with these types of entangled root systems share the limited water and nutrient resources across species. He continued to tell us that younger trees are able to tap in to the older tree roots and help supplement their growth in the under canopy.

In Rush’s lyrics, The Trees tells a story through song of a short battle between the oaks and the maples for sunlight. On the surface, the lyrics seem to be giving a warning about some political strife. According to Rush’s drummer Neil Peart, he wrote the song after seeing a cartoon depicting trees acting like people with no particular message in mind other than he thought trees acting like people was interesting. Here’s the full lyrics of the song:

There is unrest in the forest
There is trouble with the trees
For the maples want more sunlight
And the oaks ignore their pleas
The trouble with the maples
And they’re quite convinced they’re right
They say the oaks are just too lofty
And they grab up all the light
But the oaks can’t help their feelings
If they like the way they’re made
And they wonder why the maples
Can’t be happy in their shade?
There is trouble in the forest
And the creatures all have fled
As the maples scream ‘oppression!’
And the oaks, just shake their heads
So the maples formed a union
And demanded equal rights
‘The oaks are just too greedy
We will make them give us light’
Now there’s no more oak oppression
For they passed a noble law
And the trees are all kept equal
By hatchet, axe, and saw.

It wasn’t long into this hike that I realized it was serving a dual purpose for me. Becoming a State Naturalist is a passive goal I would like to accomplish, but becoming a published author is an active, passionate goal that I work on daily. I was startled at how easily the two goals meshed into one purpose with very little effort. There are many things we all do on a daily basis that can fire up your imagination. The difficulty sometimes comes in recognizing it.

Where my thoughts finally crystallized was a stop to see a small white oak, which wasn’t quite yet a sapling, growing under a shady canopy of two red maples. It was like the song says, but in reverse. The whole time I listened to the forestry professor talk about this research of trees sharing resources, I kept playing the song over and over in my head and thinking about my original story idea when I first heard the song. By the end of the hike, I had worked out a decent plot, and idea of a few beginnings, a solid ending, and even a few of the characters, all because of these amazing trees and what is now proven to be their natural behavior. It was, without a doubt, the most enjoyable (and productive) research session I’ve ever had!

I’ve included some other photos of the beautiful scenery that day below. Enjoy!

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Second Novel is Underway! The Man in Cell 41

Some folks will call it a creative slowdown, or a loss of inspiration. Maybe the educated among us refer to it as a psychological inability to write or produce new work. Call it what you like, but I call it writer’s block, and it is a terrible thing. Everyone has experienced it at some point, whether while working on your first novel, working on an essay for school or heck, even on a grocery list. It happens… and it’s awful.

However, sometimes it can be a blessing. While sitting at my keyboard one day, researching and typing and editing and researching some more on revolutionary-era documents, I hit a wall. A big wall. With bricks and such. And maybe some rebar in there for good measure. Rebar… that’s when I had an idea.

What if the last prisoner in Alcatraz was never recorded anywhere because he had a secret? Records vary a little, but most show there were 1,576 people who spent time behind bars there until the prison closed in 1963, but what if there were two more that no one ever knew about? What if it was closed because of these last two prisoners and what they did… or better yet, what they were?

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“What keeps you up at night, Mr. Talbot? Is it the loss of your freedom? Perhaps it is the echo of old miseries from these stone walls, or is it fear of the beast that murdered your wife? I know that beast, Mr. Talbot. You hunt it. You might be surprised to know, it hunts you too.” – Harald, “The Goalie”

And just like that, novel number two, The Man in Cell 41 is underway! More details are coming soon. Stay tuned!

The Book or the Movie?

I love a good story. I love plot twists and characters that are engaging and interesting. I also love to see and hear those stories across multiple platforms. Even though it predates me, I have sometimes imagined sitting in the living room gathered around a radio listening to the old westerns like The Lone Ranger or Hopalong Cassidy. Even today I will occasionally listen to one of my favorites in that medium, The War of the Worlds by Orson Welles.

 

Of course, film and television paint a broader picture, taking the description in a story and bringing it to life for all to see. The special effects industry has surpassed itself in creating anything your mind can conjure in an astounding level of detail. Actors and actresses who have mastered their craft put faces and personalities to what was once just a name on a page. My sister recently commented on how Peter Benchley’s Jaws was incredibly different from book to film. Benchley had a hand in the screen adaptation’s writing, however my sister still thought the book was better. Even though I personally loved it, many think the film version of The Lord of the Rings was not up to par with Tolkien’s original tomes. The separation comes when your mind conceives what you are reading and paints it’s own picture. Then on the big screen your mind’s picture is vastly different from what the director wants in the movie. There are many well-made shows and films that tell amazing stories, but in the end, my favorite platform is still a book.

 

I don’t mean e-books either. I don’t want to knock the platform, mind you. Technology has created a way for you to have an entire library in the palm of your hand! An astounding feat indeed, but for this consumer of stories, my favorite way to drown in a tale is flipping the pages of an old book. I want to smell that pulp. I want to feel the heft and the roughness of the pages. I want to hear the spine of the book crackle when I open and close it.
Some might say it’s archaic. Some might say I’m a Luddite. That’s O.K…. I identify with both of those descriptions. There is something about cracking the cover of a book and delving into a world that comes to life in your imagination. You can get the same experience from an e-book, but for me, I just like a plain old book.

 

To get back to the part of this that’s relevant, it is not so much about the medium as it is about the story. I remember reading the book Congo by Michael Crichton. My copy was a used paperback I picked up at a yard sale. The condition of it told me it had been well-worn and probably mistreated in it’s storage, but never judge a book by its cover. I read that wonderful book from start to finish in about 15 hours. I could not put it down! I had a similar experience with The Hot Zone by Richard Preston, and then again with the Grail Quest trilogy and The Saxon Tales by Bernard Cornwell. Just recently I did the same with Timothy Zahn’s Star Wars: Thrawn series and Noosejumpers by Trevor H. Cooley. I read them in record time and the stories were superb. What was it about them that drew me in so hard? It’s simple really… they told a good story.

 

That’s why I have started my foray into writing… to tell a good story. It is my sincere hope that if you ever pick up a book I have written, no matter what platform it’s on, that when you close the back cover or power down your Kindle after finishing the last page that you will sit back, ponder and think to yourself, “Wow, that was definitely a good story.”

 

All my best and my thanks to you,
Lyle

Welcome to the home of LSR Books!

Thank you for visiting my page. I’m grateful you’re here. This blog is a large first step toward the realization of my lifelong goal to become a published author. That goal grows nearer by the day!

Here you’ll find several creative outlets I enjoy; writing, drawing, music, books, and the occasional rant. I have several stories outlined and at various stages of completion. I also post a ‘Sketch of the Day’ when I can sit down to draw, and an occasional glimpse into my favorite musical artists.

Below is a list of stories in-progress that you’ll find on this site. If you’d like to read more about them, click on the image or the cover within the heading to go to that page. Thanks again for stopping by. If you’d like to keep up with my antics, I’d be grateful if you’d follow me by entering your email at the bottom of this page. I’d also love to hear from you, so feel free to drop a comment or a message any time. For now, sit back and enjoy these previews of what goes on in my mind!


Debut Novel – Code Name: Augustine

My first book is planned to release in late spring of 2022, titled Code Name: Augustine. It’s a Revolutionary War-era historical-fiction adventure based on the true story of Sergeant Major John Champe and his attempt to capture the traitor Benedict Arnold.

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Currier and Ives publication of the escape of Sergeant Champe at the request of George Washington to retake Benedict Arnold from New York.

The idea first came to me when I read Washington’s Secret Six by Brian Kilmeade. In it, he mentions a plot hatched by George Washington for a continental soldier to defect and get close to Arnold so he could capture and return him for trial. I was fascinated with the idea and astonished no one else had written anything about it. Over the last few years, I’ve been researching and writing on it, and am happy to announce it is almost ready for publication. This book is a labor of love and I cannot wait to share it with you.

Due in late Spring 2021!

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Cover design

“What do you think would be my fate if my misguided countrymen were to take me prisoner?”
—Benedict Arnold, 1781

Reportedly asked to a captured captain from the Colonial Army, as quoted in The Picturesque Hudson (1915) by Clifton Johnson; the captain is said to have replied, “They would cut off the leg that was wounded at Saratoga and bury it with the honors of war, and the rest of you they would hang on a gibbet.”


Other stories in progress


The Man in Cell 41

This horror novel is set in the early 1960s, and tells the story of Dean Talbot and a family curse he cannot escape. Accused of a murder he’s not sure he committed and sentenced to prison on Alcatraz Island, Dean finds himself facing a supernatural foe he never dreamed could exist, and that he’s connected to it in an unimaginable way!

Click the cover to read more and see my self-produced book trailer.

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Cover art

Star Wars: Lifeboat – A Fan Fiction

Another labor of love. I’m a huge Star Wars nerd.

Set at the end of Return of the Jedi, Lifeboat tells the story of a group of Imperial survivors after the fall of the Empire. One carries a grudge, another carries a secret, and they all carry the scars of galactic civil war. They hurtle towards a destiny none of them could fathom aboard the deceased Emperor Palpatine’s shuttle; their life boat.

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Star Wars: Lifeboat – Part I

Star Wars: Lifeboat – Part II

Star Wars: Lifeboat – Part III

Star Wars: Lifeboat – Part IV

Star Wars: Lifeboat – Part V

Star Wars: Lifeboat – Part VI … coming soon!

As this is a work of Star Wars fan fiction, I do not own or claim any rights to this story as mine or my idea. No printed copies will ever exist, and is available for free to read on this website for entertainment purposes only. Click the links above to start the story.


H.A.M.R.s (working title)

In the year 2307, man-kind faces extinction at the iron hands of their own mechanical creation, until a divine savior comes to their rescue. Click the picture below for a full outline of the story.


Fear, Itself (working title)

Set during the early 17th century witch trials of colonial America, a young boy discovers a dark secret within his humble home, but can’t tell anyone about it without casting suspicion of witchcraft on his family. He would soon discover the secret isn’t such a secret after all, and his family’s lives are all in danger from an unimaginable evil!


The Crimson King

In a time of medieval plague and strife, an unlikely hero sets into motion a chain of events to resurrect the legendary Crimson King, a monarch of ancient myth prophesied to save the kingdom in her darkest hour. However, many in the realm do not desire the return of the king and race to stop the prophecy from being fulfilled. This fantasy thriller is based on the music and lyrics of the 60’s progressive-rock band, King Crimson.


The Book of the Damned (working title)

During the Black Plague of the 1300’s, a disgraced English Nobleman returns from a long exile with an ancient and magical book of alchemy to exact revenge on the man who exiled him, King Edward III. He discovers an unlikely ally in 12-year-old Alice, and that his mystical book can give him a supernatural army to carry out his plan.

Scottish Knight Sir Dannag McColl is trying to find his place among the hostile English nobles at Edward’s court. Disliked and mistrusted by them because of his father’s traitorous legacy, Sir Dannag accepts a task that no one else at court wants: to investigate reports of a sickness in the village of Weymouth believed to be caused by witchcraft. Accompanied by a disgraced court physician and an ale-brewing friar, the trio embark into a dark world of betrayal, revenge, and witchcraft that will push them to the limits of sanity.


Down to the Crossroads: The Legend of Robert Johnson

Legendary bluesman Robert Johnson is a musician wrapped in mystery. It is said that one night, after being run off from a juke joint, Johnson took his guitar to a south Mississippi crossroads and there met Lucifer, the devil himself. Legend says he traded his soul to become the greatest blues player in the world. The devil tuned and played a bit on his guitar, granting Johnson’s wish and the rest is history.

One of the two known photos of Robert Johnson. This portrait was taken by the Hooks Bros. Photography Company in Memphis, Tenn., circa 1935.

Being a blues fan myself, Johnson’s story is fascinating to me and I’ve always wanted to write about it. One day, an outline came to me out of the blue (pun intended) for a different take on the legend of the man many consider to be the godfather of rock-n-roll. I’m looking forward to penning this historical fiction piece about love, danger, betrayal, music and a little bit of the supernatural and I can’t wait to share it with you!


Dear Satan Claus: A Christmas Comedy

Every 1,000 years, God challenges Lucifer with some menial earthly task for the chance to redeem his fallen son. God hopes above all hope that if Lucifer would see it through to completion, that he will be welcome back to Heaven with open arms.

Since his fall at the dawn of time, Lucifer has yet to complete one of these tasks. He finds them boring and mundane, and he’s not really sure he wants to go back to Heaven. But this time, the Devil will be handed the most challenging task God has ever charged him with: working at the Post Office on Christmas.

Colleen Critchlow is about to lose her job. In her decade with the United States Postal Service, her dyslexia has led to countless sorting errors and undelivered packages. As a final chance to stay employed, Colleen is reassigned to the USPS Mail Recovery Center in Atlanta, Georgia, formerly known as the “dead letter office”. On her first day, she is assigned to sort this year’s “Dear Santa” letters and finds a few with misspellings to “Dear Satan”. Her new co-worker, “Lucien”, is very interested in these particular letters…


Thank you for visiting my site, and I hope you’ll consider following me for email updates on new posts and releases when they happen. All the best!