[excerpt from upcoming book, BETRAYAL OF FATHER GARZA, to be available from Amazon]

“Accenna al savio e lascia far a lui.” Give the wise man a hint and leave him to act.



I almost told him, but Owen’s plate was too full — yeah, cliché.

Yesterday when he called me, another mail delivery had already arrived with the usual sanitized note inside, sans fingerprints on the outside envelope.

No fingerprints verified the sender in the past, too clever for something obvious.

This note said — there was usually a note — “From your friend who belongs to the oldest lost cause still active in the Western world.” Insider joke about being Jewish. Served as a signature-verification, too.

I need to go to ground for a while. You will see why, eh? Explosive . . . interesting. May not present what you call convincing case, but is what I have. Will not name sources. Will say close friend of the son-in-law who knows my boss’s boss. Fill in the missing pieces. My source thinks this is dangerous idea.

Obviously this came from Nasrani. I asked him in Rome, way back, why he always added “eh” in his conversations and many times in writing, too. He said he learned his English from the British and observed how the upper classes often ended their sentences with a question. It would give his English responses a bit of panache, “Wouldn’t you say, old boy?”

Attached to the note:


Mr. President, here’s our analysis and final recommendation, stamped NODIS — more secret than classified and means no distribution — easier to track leaks that way.

While it may appear cynical, it is the only way.

We forfeited the “War on Drugs” decades ago. The Baby Boomer mantra of sex, drugs and rock’n’roll created a revised counterculture. We pay for it today with acceptance of unwed pregnancies, an unskilled native-white workforce, and drugs everywhere as a form of recreation.

This strategy recognizes the new cultural shift and dramatically lowers the future body count. We will apply all DEA, FBI, CIA, and other law enforcement resources — even military intelligence — against the Mexican and Colombian cartels and the Mafia families, except for the family headed up by “The Nose,” whom you have chosen.

This particular New York Family has agreed to provide us with inside intelligence for the complete elimination of all competition. With the betrayal by “The Nose,” we will arrange for the other families and the cartels to wipe each other out. Once everyone else is terminated, you are positioned to move against the remaining family.

However, we urge caution against that. Former Attorney General Robert Kennedy, if he got elected in 1968, planned that kind of double-cross after they took out his brother in 1963.

This will be a bloody year. You must declare a national emergency against opioids. Our strategy will manufacture successful headlines with arrests and body counts of bad guys.

Unfortunately, the use of drugs will continue until there is a generational cultural shift. Realistically, we can only accomplish a short-term plateauing, before the decline in usage.

The Department of Commerce could assist the designated New York family in setting up new drug corporations which enable users to wean themselves away from their addictions.

Thus, our deal with the devil allows the remaining family to monopolize the trade, lower the long-term body count, level off addiction and secure a monopoly — through patents — to assist drug users to manage their habits.

This could entail the legalization of some drugs, which we believe will undo the cultural appeal of “forbidden” to the ever-rebellious, next youth-generation.

The Nose informed us he is prepared to deal. He likes the no-risk upside, plus the future morph into legitimate business. I heard he has a son hooked on something, but will never admit it.

In a remarkably short period The Nose et al. become sole distributors of illegal product, and then sole patent owners, and finally sole market distributors of the addiction management prescriptions.


Then I read the next pages, in a different type-font, no identification or date, just one word: TRANSCRIPT.

Leaving the room, Source said to Briefer, “Wanna know how ‘The Nose’s’ family was selected?”

“Yeah, how?”

“Several other New York families own more resources and contacts. But his outfit — totally ruthless — will double-cross the rest of the families if it leaves The Nose on top.

“In addition, the tie-breaker — The Nose holds special Russian tapes showing the Prez in a compromising position when he visited Moscow way before the campaign. Very compromising and, let’s say, ‘wet’ — you know, if you’ve been following the rumors. That’s always the catch with rumors — some truth there, but not always 100%.

“The wife is pissed about that. She blames The Prez because she never wanted him to run for office. She feared the 24/7 scrutiny. Seems like hubby isn’t always around and she gets bored. Man, I wish I was around when she got bored. Name of their sham marriage, ‘political convenience.’ Lot of that in Washington.”

“This whole thing — unbelievable.”

“Well, what’s more unbelievable is that the damn strategy will work.With one sole distributor of product, and no competition, the brutal turf wars will end and the silent death rate will start to reduce. Overdoses and addictions will remain high for the rest of this generation. But in about ten years, you’ll see a shift where drugs are just another form of alcohol. Most people can handle their booze . . . some don’t.”

I guess my game plan was to let things settle a bit with the other secret blockbuster revelations. This note felt more dangerous, dealing with folks who recognized even fewer boundaries than intelligence agencies. Or, maybe they all knew no limits?

If I had given the Mafia elimination strategy to my Kemosabe friend, I’m sure he would have looked paler than usual when he handed the sheets back to his Tonto. The real world was bleeding through. I too wanted to run away, somewhere, when I first read it, because the info could hurt someone, majorly.


Father Gabriel Garza waved Owen Friel’s car away with a “Vaya con Dios.”



I performed my weekly routine, checking in by phone with the individual council members. Somehow, in the course of the conversation, the councilman commented that he always checks his rearview mirror and never goes home exactly the same way: “Can’t be too careful, you know.”

I remembered that a couple of his council colleagues had quietly passed the word and boycotted him out of his modest, post-retirement business after he started challenging how things worked in the class-divided community.

Given the local politics, he advised me to be cautious, to always slightly change driving routes to work. His advice unsettled me because he was a strong, outspoken supporter of mine, and he had been a former military officer–no nervous nellie. There was no intent to make me nervous, just a helpful hint.

Talking to another member of council the same afternoon, another City Manager supporter, I mentioned the advice I had received, still slightly disbelieving.

She not only endorsed his advice but elaborated. She counseled that the going rate for a contract on someone was ten thousand dollars around there and that I should be careful. Because of our geographical location, that activity was not unheard of.

I was unnerved. Although I didn’t feel immediate danger, I did call my brother-in-law back in Washington and told him what was going on. He had past connections with the Justice Department and other folks.

I didn’t want to be dramatic. I tried to make light of it but said that if something did happen to me, to have it checked out — for the sake of my wife and two small daughters.



[Suggestions, observations, and advice, writing as Ben Leiter]

In thrillers, always keep the reader on the edge, never let them relax. 

There are all kinds of thrillers: the usual spy-thriller, action-adventure thrillers; police thrillers; romantic thrillers; military thrillers; legal thrillers; and the list goes on.

I think I did this in my last book, BETRAYAL OF FATHER GARZA, more than my others, but did I do it enough, or is the thrill gone?

AFTERLIFE: Eben Alexander vs. Woody Allen

LEITER WRITING TIPS #4 — AFTERLIFE: Eben Alexander vs. Woody Allen
[Suggestions, observations, and advice, writing as Ben Leiter]

from PROOF OF HEAVEN by Dr. Eben Alexander, who experienced a significant near-death experience:
[“And particles are made up of …Well, quite frankly, physicists don’t really know. But one thing we do know about particles is that each one is connected to every other one in the universe. They are all, at the deepest level, interconnected.”
“This other, vastly grander universe isn’t ‘far away’ at all. In fact, it’s right here — right here where I am, typing this sentence, and right there where you are, reading it. It’s not far away physically but simply exists on a different frequency. It’s right here, right now, but we’re unaware of it because we are for the most part closed to those frequencies on which it manifests. We live in the dimensions of familiar space and time, hemmed in by the peculiar limitations of our sensory organs and by our perceptual scaling within the spectrum from subatomic quantum up through the entire universe. Those dimensions, while they have many things going for them, also shut us out from the other dimensions that exist as well.”
“The universe has no beginning or end, and God is entirely present within every particle of it.”]

But Woody Allen says: “I don’t want to achieve immortality through my work. I want to achieve it through not dying. I don’t want to live on in the hearts of my countrymen. I would rather live in my apartment.



Greeley and Catholicism

A couple of thoughtful quotes from Andrew Greeley in THE CATHOLIC MYTH.

Catholicism is a religious tradition that is enthralled by metaphors that it finds itself using. …
Grace in the broad sense of that word is nothing more than the self-disclosure of God in the world. …
…Unlike the socialist, the Catholic is profoundly skeptical about remaking basic traits of the human personality.


Through different eyes

The writer Gail Honeyman says, “Part of the challenge and pleasure of writing is to put yourself in different circumstances and see the world through different eyes.”
That’s exactly what I tried to do in three of the four protagonists of my books:

My memoir. True local government stories of murder, suicide, drug running, and a monkey on the loose. Names changed to protect the guilty. I am the city manager in the book.

A fictional romance-noir. One failed romance after another as the protagonist, Bill Peters, pursues the ever-elusive holy grail of true love. Will he find it?

A political-religious thriller. Young Father Gabriel Garza asks too many questions and doesn’t toe the Church’s party line. His elderly Archbishop in Washington, D.C. exiles him to study in Rome. There, he learns too many explosive religious and political secrets. He’s on The Watch List of some bad boys. This gay, Hispanic priest is in trouble.

Father Garza has upset folks. Someone has moved him to The Hit List. Suspects include the Vatican, the CIA, the Mafia, ISIS, the neighborhood gang, and Vladimir Putin.

Dear Mr. Peters . . .

[a chapter excerpt from my book BABY BOOMERS’ LOVE-BETRAYAL, a sardonic romance noir, on Amazon under the pen name Ben Leiter]


I didn’t recognize the handwriting on the envelope. When I opened it, a familiar perfume smell escaped.

I could see dead mackerel eyes, but couldn’t identify the owner. Maybe I don’t want to read this?

Dear Mr. Peters:

My emotions are mixed in writing to you. In fact, I don’t think I have sorted them out even now, six months later.

I see you smirk as you note a woman referring to “emotions.” I suspect that to you, putting the two words “woman” and “emotions” in the same sentence is redundant. We wouldn’t want to be redundant, repeating in the same sentence, would we?

I have used “Mr.,” to keep this as dispassionate as I can, although that is not how I feel.

After you didn’t call for six weeks, I knew we were done; might-as-well-stick-a-fork-in-me done. You stuck something else in me, many times. You used me and cast me aside for some new, younger adventure.

I’m not naive. I heard about men like you and steered clear of them. You leave pain in the wake of your emotional crimes.

A short note for you about women, and this woman in particular. We are a gift from God. We create and carry life. We nurture with fierce love. We give and give and give. When we open ourselves to you, it is more than physical.

There are some men who just take, and then move on.

You are one of them.

Enjoy your fleeting romantic exploits because you will never know the constant warmth and security of a faithful woman who is there for you, every day, and especially every night.

How can I describe the wonder of being loved by someone who knows you and still gives you permission to be you? You could have had that. It’s called true love, an old-fashioned term that you have excised from your personal dictionary like a tumor.

You play-act as if you are searching for the holy grail of true love. But the truth says you are unable to change into a real human being able to trust an other with his heart.

Being in my late thirties, I have learned a thing or two. One is that the universe will likely pay you back. It’s not a guarantee or a threat, just a probability.

I know when the change occurred. I could see it on your falling face the last time we were together — when I came out of the bathroom sans camouflage, completely naked: no bustier; no stockings and high heels; and especially no makeup, which I usually spackle on to hold back the tide of mortality.

Just me. And, I did not kneel down in front of you for our usual oral ritual where I play your love slave.

That was on purpose. My suspicions about what went on in that head of yours demanded to know if you were with me, as me, or captive of a fantasy. I found out, didn’t I?

You had trouble with The Love Machine that night, as you so affectionately refer to the equipment in your middle region. You would say that one or two of your eight cylinders was misfiring or some such juvenile car reference. Anything to avoid dealing with a real woman in a meaningful relationship.

I don’t need to sign this letter, because you know who it is. With what affection I have left for you, I hope you find what or who you are looking for before it’s too late.

You could have had it all.

P.S. My experiences with you had one happy outcome. I began to reconnoiter a feminine part of myself that I had suppressed for years since I was brought up a strict Presbyterian. Thanks to you, I can now come out and declare myself a practicing “Lesbiterian.”


Geez, I thought, what do you do with something like this? Since it’s the twenty-first century and women are smart now, I could be in trouble.

If I could plead my case before Judge Judy, would she find me guilty of trying to turn a bunch of little loves into one big love?



Book summary: Seventy-six million Baby Boomers, retiring at the rate of ten thousand a day, want to know: “What happened to true love?”

MEET BILL PETERS, an aging Boomer grasping for romance on his life quest for the love grail.

Has society’s siren song of carefree sex betrayed his generation?

Will Bill find what he is looking for?