JackBoston’s Books: A Select Bibliography
Select one of Jack’s books to read an excerpt.
It takes man to smell the smoke
To check smudgepots, feel the sun,
To at evening light the lamps;
Once a spark, a chinking of flint
And the night grew less dark for
Our ancestors, but not less fearful.
I am ever fearful of the night;
Afraid of coldness, afraid when alone,
Afraid of dancing hearthstone embers
In dreams that never, ever end
Yet not afraid to believe again
In things that magic once forestalled;
I recall an ancient witch’s death
Upon a childhood night, the quiet
Fear of passing from dream to dream;
And now those terrors have come back
To mock me; tiny sparks in blackness
Turn walls to tinder in my sleep.
Jack’s best-selling nonfiction book, coauthored with John Gantz. Available on Amazon as a hardcover.
(with John Gantz; William Morrow, 1983)
When Joseph Weizenbaum developed Eliza (named after Eliza Doolittle in the play “Pygmalion”) in 1966, he did so to demonstrate the possibilities and limitations of conversing with computers in natural language. The use of ersatz psychiatry was only so humans would assume a seemingly dumb question or wishy-washy response was asked for a purpose, not out of ignorance. Eliza was supposed to be an example of farcical psychiatry. Instead, the headshrinkers of the day praised its psychiatric acumen, lauding the program as a therapeutic breakthrough. Some started telling Eliza their own tales of Oedipal conflict, sibling death wishes, and fear of kittens.
Weizenbaum was disgusted.
“The big guy said it was time for ya to get off dah Benson invessigation,” Kinky blurted.
“Oh, he did, did he?” I said. I grabbed him by his filthy coat, stinking of cheap wine. “Here’s a message for the big guy. Tell him I don’t know a thing about Rodney Benson’s murder. My specialty is computer crime.” I herded Kinky toward the door. “Tell him I run a nice clean shop,” I added as I put my foot in the middle of Kinky’s back, “and I intend to keep it that way.” I pushed and he went airborne over the landing, bounced off the wall, tumbled down the stairs and came to a stop at the street door. He didn’t move. I called the Cambridge police to report a drunk passed out in the stairwell. Glancing at my watch, I had just enough time to get to the Casa Portugal to meet Christine for dinner.
The Secret of Cyberspace Farm, a Dennis Driscoll Mystery
A computer crime novella set in a peaceful New Hampshire hamlet. Featuring: a beautiful widow, an alcoholic wife-beating farmer and his computer-savvy son, a geek Internet service provider, and a fiendishly clever pot-smuggling scheme. Available as eBook and audiobook.
(Joshua Tree Press/Kindle, 2009;)
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Colleen began, “I’m from Pennsylvania – the Liberty Bell is in Philadelphia, of course….”
She was interrupted by the Liberty Bell Country Store’s cowbell ringing. The door opened and in walked this totally weird guy.
He was about 5’7”, 140 pounds, wearing a fleece-lined leather Cossack hat with earflaps and strings that tie under your chin. I looked for a propeller on top; nope. Wool plaid work shirt with a plastic pocket protector filled with pens, pencils and screwdrivers, gray Oshkosh work pants with stains ranging from mustard to paint, heavily scuffed work boots. He also wore a smile as wide as his glasses. I wondered if he was a perpetually happy soul or just totally insane.
Colleen introduced us as “you’re both into computers.” I wondered how she knew that, but soon found out nobody can keep secrets in a little country town. By the time my so-called vacation ended, I fervently wished that wasn’t true.
(with John Gantz; Financial Times/Prentice Hall, 2004)
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From the first copyright act of 1476 to the ruling in Donaldson v. Beckett three centuries later, copyright was primarily about business, ownership of intellectual content, and politically maneuverings. It never really concerned itself much with authors’ rights to control the dissemination of their intellectual property or to benefit financially from their published work. Furthermore, since the passage of the Statute of Anne over two centuries ago, it’s been more and more of the same. Is the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) that much different from yesteryear’s Royal Stationers Company? Are the software counterfeiters of China much different from the Scottish book bootleggers of 1700?
(Joshua Tree Press, 2011)
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Jane and I went to a Grateful Dead concert at the Fillmore Auditorium. It felt good to get stoned, groove to the music, everything flowing together into never-ending songs.
Afterwards, a guy wearing a tie-dyed T-shirt, Beatles hat and purple heart-shaped granny glasses said, “Man, What a concert! The Dead are far out, huh? Wanna meet them?”
Jane’s face lit up. “You’re kidding.”
“It’s easy. We just tell ‘em Errol sent us.”
Jane was silently jumping up and down on the sidewalk. “Yeah, very cool,” I said.
The house was easy enough to find, the Dead’s music pouring out. A guy cracked the door. “Too many of you,” he whispered.
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“This is a madrone, isn’t it?” says Nate.
“Yes, it is,” says Jane.
“It’s beautiful,” he says.
“I wrote you letters here. Your poem. This is my place to be without life interrupting. Now it’s ours.” She smiles, throws her arms up and twirls. “C’mere.” She leads him into the tree’s center. The trunks remind him of tiny redwoods.
They sit lotus; touch knees; hands touch; Be Close. “This is a spirit place, a hallowed grove,” Jane whispers over the sounds of surf washing in below. “I transcend when I’m here. Can you feel it, Natey?”
He nods. Energy flows and swirls around them like microscopic spore, like sparks from an electric rainbow, like dropping acid, like being immersed in pure energy.
“Remember Sergeant Sheldon’s Robinson Jeffers poem?”
“Sure. Tying his horse to a young madrone.”
“Yes! All the images in his poem are here. It made me want to write poetry like that.”
(Joshua Tree Press/Kindle, 2016)
Brady was in crazy in love with Detective Nicole Donovan.
“You’re late, Brady,” Nicole said, poking her pencil in the corner of her mouth without erasing her smile.
“Yes it is, Nikky, in this bare ruined choir loft where late a sweet bird sings for me in the twilight o’ the day, after sunset hath long ago fadeth in the west.”
“Oh, stop it, Brady,” said Nicole, laughing then laughing some more, sweet as a bird’s song. She stood, tugged at her blue uniform blouse, walked over to Brady and ran her bright red fingernails down his chest, saying, “Such a poet you are, my bonny boy,” standing tiptoe in her Danner desert combat boots to kiss him. “I like your T-shirt.”
“No, not me, lass, ‘tis Shakespeare who’s the poet,” he replied.
Nicole stepped back, licking her lips. “Brady, are you using strawberry Carmex now, or is that lipstick on your poetic mouth?”
Tim Rosencrantz runs down night-darkened Randolph Street, laughing out loud. He carries a two-foot length of lead pipe in his right hand and as he runs he lashes out, smashing parked car windows. Up ahead in protoplasmic smears of light falling from pale streetlamps, he can see Ron Spiegel and a few others doing the same thing: beating on car roofs, hoods, trunks, windows, smashing smashing smashing the second most important thing The Man owns. Tim veers onto the sidewalk and begins smashing windows in buildings, crying out “Power to the people!” and “Workers of the world unite!” and “Death to the dogs who prey on the people!”
As they approach Canal Street, the intersection lights are much brighter. Police car sirens whine in the near distance. Tim stops, pulls his pistol out and squeezes the trigger once, twice, three times. Glass falls to the street. The streetlights blink out.
The Strong Stuff: The Best of Fictional Café, 2013-2017The first print anthology of work posted on Fictional Café, which Jack co-founded with Caitlin M. Park. An online magazine featuring prose, poetry, fine art, podcasts, reviews, and interviews. Limited printing, only 75 left, available on https://www.fictionalcafe.com/the-strong-stuff/.
Caitlin Park and I came up with the idea for Fictional Café over lunch in a little Thai café one sunny April afternoon in 2013 in Sonoma County, California.* At the time, Caitlin was a creative writing grad student at Cal State, Sonoma. I had flown in from Boston to award her the Joshua Tree Interactive Working Writers Scholarship. We hit it off from the moment we met, and knew Fictional Café, “FC,” meant great literary things were in store for us both. And possibly the literary world.
No, we didn’t sketch the idea on a paper napkin like J.K. Rowling’s ideas for Harry Potter. Nor did we develop it in a garage like Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak did with the Apple computer. But once the idea took wing, it flew higher than a Falcon 9 rocket. Within two months, we had figured the whole thing out and the website was up in beta.
Fictional Café fulfilled a dream for us both: Caitlin to hone her writing, publishing, and editorial skills (she had interned as a manuscript reader for a literary agency and was eager for more challenging work), and me, who had always dreamed of working in a bookstore (go figure). We agreed the site would be free in every respect, for writers and readers alike.
A soft breeze blew from the ocean, rich with the scent of salt and seaweed, sweeping Jung-Shan’s hair away from her face. She reached back and pulled it into a knot and tied it.
“Shall we sit out here for a while?” said Jed, gesturing toward the large wicker chairs.
Jung-Shan yawned politely. “It has become very late, Jed. Tomorrow we have a long cycling day. I am very tired. Shall we. . . ?” She reached out for his hand and they walked through the rear door, up the stairs, to their suite.
Jung-Shan excused herself to the bathroom. Jed stood at the Jacuzzi, looking out the picture window. The tiny island was slightly visible; soon it would be engulfed, lost to the rising tide. Jed looked down. He longed to be soaking in that tub with her, sharing this view.
Again, Jung-Shan came out of the bathroom, her arms filled with rolled towels.
When they came downstairs for breakfast the next morning, their bikes were gone.