Saturday, July 21, 2018





Your intrepid writers:
Chris Bunch & Allan Cole 

Chalk in one hand, pointer in the other, the teacher skritched her name on the blackboard, then made a squeaky, swirly underline beneath and announced loud and clear for all to hear:"I'm Miss Susan Fordyce and I'll be your Journalism Advisor this year."

With her pointer, she tapped a large banner above the blackboard, which read:


And informed us, "This is where we publish Mira Costa's student newspaper, La Vista."

The kid in front of me snickered. "No shit," he said in a stage whisper that I would come to learn was one of his trademarks.

Miss Fordyce whirled on him. She said, "Chris? Did you have something you wanted to share with the class?"

The kid named Chris said, "No, Ma'am. I was only expressing my pleasure that I wasn't in the wrong room. And I almost forgot the name of our school newspaper. Thanks for setting me straight."

Miss Fordyce paled and her lips, which were already thin, became pencil lines. For a minute I thought she was going to give the kid a righteous piece of her mind, but then she sighed, adjusted her stylish (for 1960) cat's eyes spectacles and returned her attention to the rest of us.

She said, "For your first assignment I want each of you to write a short biography about yourself, and then-"

The kid named Chris raised a laconic hand to half mast, saying, "You mean autobiography, don't you Miss Fordyce?"

She gave him a confused look - what the hell?

But before she could speak, the kid named Chris explained, "A biography about yourself would be an autobiography, wouldn't it, Ma'am?" 

Another long sigh. "Yes, Chris," Miss Fordyce said.

From her tone I guessed she'd endured previous encounters with the guy. Probably last year, when he would have been a Junior. Only Juniors and Seniors could be in Journalism. I was a senior and the kid had that Don't Mess With Me, I'm An Upperclassman look, so I figured he was a senior as well.

It was my first day at Mira Costa High School in Manhattan Beach - I'd transferred in from Hollywood High. The semester before that I'd attended three different high schools - one in Florida, two in Philadelphia. And before that, Kubasaki High School in Okinawa.

How all that occurred is another story, and you can read all about it in my book, Lucky In Cyprus. In brief, I was a young nomad - a CIA brat who'd spent his life bouncing around the world, leaving everyone he knew behind and mostly forgotten.

And now I was in sore need of new friends.

Up front, Miss Fordyce was telling everyone that she expected the biog... mmm... autobiography... at the end of class. She would review them overnight and in the morning she would announce which of us were to be editors and which of us were to be mere reporters on "our award-winning student newspaper - La Vista."

Somebody asked, "How many pages."

Miss Fordyce raised three fingers. "Three," she said.

There were groans. In an outraged tone, somebody said: "Three pages?!?"

Miss Fordyce remained firm. "At a minimum," she said.

There were more groans - but not, I noticed from the kid named Chris. Miss Fordyce told us to get started and he just shrugged, got out paper and a pen and started writing.

I glanced around, noting there were about two dozen of us. All girls, except for me, the kid named Chris, another kid whose name I'd later learn was Tom, and another guy whose name escapes me. Among the girls was a petite blond named Carol Cavanaugh who was destined to be my ex-wife. But that catastrophe was in the future and so I was of good cheer when I got to writing.

It only took a few minutes. I was a good writer, a fast writer, and besides I was used to this sort of thing. By the time I hit Mira Costa I'd attended thirty one schools and had explained myself to so many people so many times - both formally and informally - that I had the whole thing down pat.

The kid named Chris had finished his assignment as well and fetched a book from the stack beneath his desk, opened it and became instantly absorbed. Hmm, I thought. A reader. That's a good sign.

I took further note. He was still in his skinny teenage stage, but from his long legs I could tell that he was tall. And he had a huge head topped by a buzz-saw haircut.

I craned to get a better look at what he was reading. From what I could see it was an odd-looking tome, with weird symbols and illustrations.

I whispered: "What's the book?"

He glanced back, displaying a long, shovel-shaped face and steely blue eyes. He shrugged and showed me the cover. It was The Encyclopedia Of Witchcraft. Volume Six, no less.

Damn, I thought. Now this has got to be one interesting guy.

I gave him a thumbs up and a grin. "Name's Cole," I said. He nodded. "I'm Bunch." Then went back to his book.

The following day, Miss Fordyce announced that she and the editor of the paper, a girl named Carol Chadwick - whose family owned a nursery across the street from the school - had made their choices. The other Carol - the one who was to be my future ex-wife - was named editor of Page One. I forget who was made editor of Page Two. Chris Bunch was to be editor of Page Three, the feature page, on which he would soon establish a humor column titled, Phantasmagoria. It was packed with puns, some obscure, some not and the column gave Miss Fordyce conniptions each week trying to ferret out any that might contain a rude double meaning. Without great success, I'm pleased to say.

I was named co-sports editor, along with the kid named Tom, whose last name I learned was Mead. This decision, no doubt, was made because, besides the kid whose name I forget, we were the only other males. And in those days only humans bearing the XY chromosome were deemed suitable for the Sports Beat. The kid whose name I forget was a genial jock who could barely spell, so that left him out of the running.

Of that group, three of us would become pros. Me and Chris, plus Tom Mead who would go on to become a reporter for Copley News. (Chris and I used him as a war correspondent in our Vietnam novel- A Reckoning For Kings. )

It was at Mira Costa that Chris and I hatched our first conspiracy.

The school was building a new indoor Olympic-sized swimming pool as well as a new auditorium. Why anyone would construct an indoor pool in Southern California where it rains maybe once every seven years is anybody's guess. But Mira Costa was blessed with an enormous amount of vacant land, and in those days California schools were brimming with money, thanks to Baby Boom parents shelling out taxes so their little darlings would be decently educated to deal with a future made uncertain by the Russians beating us into space with the Sputnik.

Wondering how Mira Costa had acquired so much land in a beach community where property values were sky high, Chris did a little research. When he kept coming up with Japanese surnames attached to the previous property owners, he really dug in. Manhattan Beach was an upper middle class, very white, aerospace community where there was only one black family and a young Japanese American guy and his wife who ran a restaurant across from the pier. And they were newcomers.

Chris learned that prior to World War Two there had been many Japanese families who had lived in the area for years and owned well-established farms and nurseries. When World War Two broke out, so did mass hysteria and xenophobia and despite the fact that most of the farmers were native born Americans, they were rounded up and stuck in concentration camps. Their land and possessions were seized, or sold for less than a song.

The law that permitted this enormous ripoff was Executive Order 9066 signed by President Roosevelt and later upheld by the Supreme Court. (More than 120,000 people of Japanese descent were interred. Most were native-born Americans.)

And guess what, folks? The land our school sat upon and was building new auditoriums and lavish indoor swimming pools upon had been stolen from Japanese-American families not many years before.

Chris wrote a series of articles exposing this wrong-doing, and a companion editorial urging that the families be located and properly reimbursed.

The articles never saw the light of day. No surprise there, right? But, Chris dug in and fought the censorship, enlisting first my support, then others, but nothing ever came of it.

Except that Chris ended up on Miss Fordyce's permanent shit list for causing so much trouble.

Well, what could she do to even the score? She could give him a poor grade, but other than myself, he was easily the best writer in the class. Nothing less than an "A" would be acceptable.

She bided her time until the annual Navy Day came round. Navy Day was a rather clever U.S. Navy PR (meaning Recruiting) program, in which student journalists spent a day and a night aboard one of the nation's battleships or aircraft carriers, and then wrote an article about the experience for their school newspaper. The article would be entered in a contest and the winners in various categories would win a handsome plaque, or framed scroll - I forget which. Maybe it was both.

Considering the times, you won't be surprised to learn that only boy journalists were allowed to participate in the program - just like only boys could cover sports.

That was when Miss Fordyce struck. She handed official invitations to me, Tom, the kid whose name I forget - but, not Chris.

"Your classroom attitude leaves something to be desired," she informed him when he protested. "And so I must withhold your invitation."

In later years, Chris would have told her where to put that attitude business, but he was too close to graduation to take the risk. It seemed that nothing could be done about it. The real pity was that Chris was the only one of us who really gave a damn. Sounded like fun, sure, but not that much fun. Chris, on the other hand, loved everything military. Read stacks of books about wars and battles and weapons. Plus, his father had served aboard an aircraft carrier in WWII. (The same carrier the First President Bush - father of the Shrub - flew off of during his wartime service, and then crashed into the sea where he was rescued after a harrowing time afloat. Some of you might think the rescue was a good thing, others might not.) 

"This is totally screwed, Cole," he complained. "If an editor spikes your story you're supposed to have the balls to kick, right?"

Well, sure. Unfortunately, the First Amendment stops at the gates of your local school district, and even bitching about it brings down the wrath - and pettiness - of The Powers That Be.

I tried to plead his case to Miss Fordyce, but she had put her Mean on and could not be budged. So, I got together with Tom Mead and the other guy and we joined forces and told her that if Chris couldn't go, none of us would go.

These were the days of Teacher Loyalty Oaths and Commie Scares, so in the end she had to cave. Otherwise, she'd look unpatriotic.

We went. Had a nifty time. And when we returned we elected Chris to write the story about our experiences. He filled it with authentic detail, colorful quotes from officers and enlisted men alike and eventually it was Chris Bunch who snapped up the Navy Day prize for Best In The State, bringing honor to La Vista and pissing Miss Fordyce off.

Although Chris' articles about Executive Order 9066 never ran, many years later he and I sold a story based on that travesty to the late, great Jack Klugman for ten grand. Which ain't bad for a little high school research.

And thus began a friendship that lasted over three decades; twenty of which we spent as writing partners. Our first collaboration was a very bad thriller, which we wrote by mail while he was humping jungle in Vietnam and I was pounding a typewriter in a newsroom.

The book was kind of a game. I'd write a chapter with a cliff-hanger ending, then ship it to Chris. Chris would solve the cliff-hanging business, continue the story, ending his chapter with a cliffhanger. If one guy couldn't solve the puzzle, he owed the other guy a bottle of scotch. If the guy who set up the cliff-hanger was stumped himself, he owed two bottles of scotches. I don't remember how it all came out.

We also collaborated on the world's worst porn novel (Palace Of Strange Delights, by Rod Cummings ), but gave up midway, bored out of our skulls.

Both of us had dreamed of becoming novelists and screenwriters well before our ages hit the double digits. And in 1976 we made a pact to team up and launch a concerted effort to crack the literary walls of both Hollywood and New York.

We worked 35 hours a week, while holding down stress-ridden full-time jobs. We got so many rejections you could have papered an executive bathroom at Universal Studios.

But we persisted.

Finally, in the summer of 1979 we got not one but two breaks.

We sold our first novel, Sten, and our first TV script, Quincy, M.E.

A month later we quit our jobs and never looked back.

What follows are the sometimes frustrating, but always hilarious adventures - or misadventures - of Bunch and Cole, who became known far and wide as the fix-it boys.

Allan & Chris -The Fix-It Boys



Between February and May of 1942, German U-boats operated with impunity off the Florida coast, sinking scores of freighters from Cape Canaveral to Key West and killing nearly five thousand people. Residents were horrified witnesses of the attacks—the night skies were aflame and in the morning the beaches were covered with oil and tar, ship parts and charred corpses. The Germans even landed teams of saboteurs charged with disrupting war efforts in the factories of the North. This novel is based on those events. For my own purposes, I set the tale in the fictitious town of Juno Beach on the banks of the equally fictitious Seminole River—all in the very real Palm Beach County, a veritable wilderness in those long ago days. Among the witnesses were my grandfather and grandmother, who operated an orchard and ranch in the area. 

Click here for the paperback and Kindle Versions
Click here for the audio version - Read By Ben McLean


The year is 1778 and the Revolutionary War has young America trapped in the crossfire of hatred and fear. Diana, an indentured servant, escapes her abusive master with the help of Emmett Shannon, a deserter from the desperate army at Valley Forge. They fall in love and marry, but their happiness is shattered and Diana Shannon must learn to survive on her own. From that moment on she will become a true woman of her times, blazing a path from lawless lands in the grips of the Revolution, to plague-stricken Philadelphia, to the burning of Washington in the War Of 1812.
Click here to buy the novel. Paperback, Kindle or, audiobook.

Tales Sometimes Tall, but always true, of Allan Cole's years in Hollywood with his late partner, Chris Bunch. How a naked lady almost became our first agent. How we survived La-La Land with only the loss of half our brain cells. How Bunch & Cole became the ultimate Fix-It 
Boys. How an alleged Mafia Don was very, very good to us. The guy who cornered the market on movie rocks. Andy Warhol's Fire Extinguisher. The Real Stars Of Hollywood. Why they don't make million dollar movies. See The Seven Pi$$ing Dwarfs. Learn: how to kill a "difficult" actor… And much, much more.


THE TIMURA TRILOGY: When The Gods Slept, Wolves Of The Gods and The Gods Awaken. This best selling fantasy series now available as trade paperbacks, e-books (in all varieties) and as audiobooks. Visit The Timura Trilogy page for links to all the editions. 

NEWLY REVISED KINDLE EDITIONS OF THE TIMURA TRILOGY NOW AVAILABLE. (1) When The Gods Slept;(2) Wolves Of The Gods; (3) The Gods Awaken.


A NATION AT WAR WITH ITSELF: In Book Three Of The Shannon Trilogy, young Patrick Shannon is the heir-apparent to the Shannon fortune, but murder and betrayal at a family gathering send him fleeing into the American frontier, with only the last words of a wise old woman to arm him against what would come. And when the outbreak of the Civil War comes he finds himself fighting on the opposite side of those he loves the most. In The Wars Of The Shannons we see the conflict, both on the battlefield and the homefront, through the eyes of Patrick and the members of his extended Irish-American family as they struggle to survive the conflict that ripped the new nation apart, and yet, offered a dim beacon of hope.



What if the Cold War never ended -- but continued for a thousand years? Best-selling authors Allan Cole (an American) and Nick Perumov (a Russian) spin a mesmerizing "what if?" tale set a thousand years in the future, as an American and a Russian super-soldier -- together with a beautiful American detective working for the United Worlds Police -- must combine forces to defeat a secret cabal ... and prevent a galactic disaster! This is the first - and only - collaboration between American and Russian novelists. Narrated by John Hough. Click the title links below for the trade paperback and kindle editions. (Also available at iTunes.)


A novel by Allan and his daughter, Susan

After laboring as a Doctors Without Borders physician in the teaming refugee camps and minefields of South Asia, Dr. Ann Donovan thought she'd seen Hell as close up as you can get. And as a fifth generation CIA brat, she thought she knew all there was to know about corruption and betrayal. But then her father - a legendary spymaster - shows up, with a ten-year-old boy in tow. A brother she never knew existed. Then in a few violent hours, her whole world is shattered, her father killed and she and her kid brother are one the run with hell hounds on their heels. They finally corner her in a clinic in Hawaii and then all the lies and treachery are revealed on one terrible, bloody storm- ravaged night.

BASED ON THE CLASSIC STEN SERIES by Allan Cole & Chris Bunch: Fresh from their mission to pacify the Wolf Worlds, Sten and his Mantis Team encounter a mysterious ship that has been lost among the stars for thousands of years. At first, everyone aboard appears to be long dead. Then a strange Being beckons, pleading for help. More disturbing: the presence of AM2, a strategically vital fuel tightly controlled by their boss - The Eternal Emperor. They are ordered to retrieve the remaining AM2 "at all costs." But once Sten and his heavy worlder sidekick, Alex Kilgour, board the ship they must dare an out of control defense system that attacks without warning as they move through dark warrens filled with unimaginable horrors. When they reach their goal they find that in the midst of all that death are the "seeds" of a lost civilization. 



Venice Boardwalk Circa 1969
In the depths of the Sixties and The Days Of Rage, a young newsman, accompanied by his pregnant wife and orphaned teenage brother, creates a Paradise of sorts in a sprawling Venice Beach community of apartments, populated by students, artists, budding scientists and engineers lifeguards, poets, bikers with  a few junkies thrown in for good measure. The inhabitants come to call the place “Pepperland,” after the Beatles movie, “Yellow Submarine.” Threatening this paradise is  "The Blue Meanie,"  a crazy giant of a man so frightening that he eventually even scares himself.