Category Archives: Thriller

Review: Marriage before Death: WWII Spy Thriller

Marriage before Death: WWII Spy Thriller (Still Life with Memories Book 5) by Uvi Poznansky 
Book DescriptionMarriage before Death

After D-Day, her photograph appears on the most-wanted Nazi propaganda posters. Who is the girl with the red beret? She reminds him of Natasha, but no, that cannot be. Why does Rochelle step into his life when he is lead by SS soldiers to the gallows? At the risk of being found out as a French Resistance fighter, what makes her propose marriage to a condemned man?

My Review

Uvi Poznansky raises the stakes in a high stakes story, filled with uncertainty, drama and suspense. After landing on a Normandy beach during D-Day, Lenny finds himself separated from his unit. He is puzzled by a letter Natasha left with him. As far as Lenny knows, Natasha is on a ship bound for America but she reveals an awareness that he will be landing in France and knows of the invasion in advance.

Later Lenny approaches a hospital. He’s looking for a place to hide from the Nazis. There he sees an attractive girl wearing a red beret who he learns goes by Rochelle. Everything about her reminds him of Natasha.

Events coalesce to bring Lenny and Rochelle who it turns out is Natasha together. She has parachuted behind the lines in France to assist The Resistance. Eventually Lenny and Natasha are captured my Nazis. They will have to use their wits, wiles and a bit of good fortune to survive as a shadowy figure lurks to betray who they are. Fortunately, the SS commander develops a strong attraction for Rochelle. Rochelle works to buy time to delay an appointment with the executioner.

This book is a nail biter and one I found hard to put down. For me, this is Uvi Poznansky’s best novel to date.


Uvi Poznansky Author page at

Uvi Poznansky is a bestselling, award-winning author, poet and artist. “I paint with my pen,” she says, “and write with my paintbrush.” Her romance boxed set, A Touch of Passion, is the 2016 WINNER of The Romance Reviews Readers’ Choice Awards.

Education and work:
Uvi earned her B. A. in Architecture and Town Planning from the Technion in Haifa, Israel and practiced with an innovative Architectural firm, taking a major part in the large-scale project, called Home for the Soldier.

Having moved to Troy, N.Y. with her husband and two children, Uvi received a Fellowship grant and a Teaching Assistantship from the Architecture department at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. There, she guided teams in a variety of design projects and earned her M.A. in Architecture. Then, taking a sharp turn in her education, she earned her M.S. degree in Computer Science from the University of Michigan.

She worked first as an architect, and later as a software engineer, software team leader, software manager and a software consultant (with an emphasis on user interface for medical instruments devices.) All the while, she wrote and painted constantly, and exhibited in Israel and California. In addition, she taught art appreciation classes. Her versatile body of work includes bronze and ceramic sculptures, oil and watercolor paintings, charcoal, pen and pencil drawings, and mixed media.

Books and Genres:
Her two series won great acclaim. Still Life with Memories is a family saga series with touches of romance. It includes Apart From Love, My Own Voice, The White Piano, The Music of Us, and Dancing with Air. The David Chronicles is a historical fiction series. It includes Rise to Power, A Peek at Bathsheba, and The Edge of Revolt.

Her poetry book, Home, is in tribute to her father. Her collection of dark tales, Twisted, and her Historical Fiction book, A Favorite Son, are both new age, biblically inspired books. In addition, Uvi wrote and illustrated two children books, Jess and Wiggle and Now I Am Paper. For each one of these books, she created an animation video (find them on YouTube and on her Goodreads page.)






Filed under Historical WWII, Thriller, Word War 2

Q&A with Kourtney Heintz, Author of The Six Train to Wisconsin

post by Rich Weatherly

Friends and fellow bloggers, I’m honored to introduce you to Kourtney Heintz, debut author of The Six Train to Wisconsin. Kourtney has agreed to an interview about her past and about her writing life. Before I start the Q&A, I think this is a good time to introduce your book Kourtney.

Synopsis of Novel: SixTraintoWisconsin1600

When Kai’s telepathy spirals out of control, her husband Oliver brings her to the quiet Wisconsin hometown he abandoned a decade ago, where he must confront the secrets of his past to save their future.

Sometimes saving the person you love can cost you everything. There is one person that ties Oliver Richter to this world: his wife Kai. For Kai, Oliver is the keeper of her secrets.

When her telepathy spirals out of control and inundates her mind with the thoughts and emotions of everyone within a half-mile radius, the life they built together in Manhattan is threatened.

To save her, Oliver brings her to the hometown he abandoned—Butternut, Wisconsin—where the secrets of his past remain buried. But the past has a way of refusing to stay dead. Can Kai save Oliver before his secrets claim their future?

An emotionally powerful debut, The Six Train to Wisconsin pushes the bounds of love as it explores devotion, forgiveness and acceptance.

 The Q&A

Welcome to my blog Kourtney! Before I get into specific questions, are there any general comments you’d like to share as we kick off this interview?

Rich, I’d like to thank you for sharing your blog space with me and for taking the time to interview me. Really appreciate the support you’ve given me and my novel!

RW– When I purchased your book, I couldn’t help but notice the following: The Six Train to Wisconsin, was a 2012 Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award Semifinalist. Do you have any thoughts on the reason for your book’s early success?

Aw, thank you. I fretted over the book being ready. I sent out my first manuscript too soon and I didn’t want that to happen again. So I took my time with this one. I won several charity auctions to have my first 50-100 pages critiqued by agents, editors, and published authors. I had a few beta readers. I work shopped it. I brought it to writing critique groups. And I listened to the feedback and incorporated it over time. I tried to put my ego aside and make the best book I could make.

I also didn’t try to write to trend. I wrote the story that was inside me. The story I was most passionate about. My characters had lots of quirks and flaws. They were people I could spend years with.

I tried to focus on universal emotions– jealousy, regret, guilt, uncertainty… to tap into things that everyone could relate to. Even the arguments between the husband and wife. I tried to capture what I’d experienced in arguments–where you are having two separate conversations simultaneously and don’t even realize it at the time.

 RW- You mentioned to me that you used genre blending and alternating point of view. Please elaborate.

I don’t write straight genre fiction because I don’t seem to be able to stay within the lines. I know what the expectations of the genre are, but my stories inevitably pass through several genres.

 This one started out with the telepathy being the central story point for the couple, which is why it’s speculative fiction. Later, we learn the husband has a secret about his father whom he’s run from since high school. This introduces a mystery element. The relationship between the husband and the wife skirts along women’s fiction and literary fiction with the in-depth emotions and the beautiful turns of phrase. As the book progresses, a thriller element weaves through the last 100 pages. I didn’t plan any of this. The story just went where it went, and I realize this would be a humdinger to categorize.

 The alternating point of view (POV) was something an agent suggested to me during a revise and resubmit. Originally, I told half the novel from the husband’s POV, a quarter from the wife’s POV, and then alternated chapter by chapter to the end. The agent strongly advised me to alternate POV from the get go, allowing the characters to live and breathe side by side. She thought it would enrich the story. After several months of painful revisions, I completely agree with her.

 Alternating POV is more common in love stories. And at its heart that is what this novel is to me. It’s not all hearts and rainbows. There are misunderstandings and hurt feelings; there are betrayals and heartbreak. Even so, I think all of that is part of the journey of love.

RW- I think it’s fair now for me to refer to you as a successful debut author. What are your writing plans for the future?

Thank, Rich. I’ll take that. 🙂

Right now, I’m in promotional mode. I have book tours, blog tours, and lots of social media work to do. But this summer, I plan to start revisions on my YA novel, Reckonings. I have another YA novel that a beta reader is going over for me. That’s on my to do list too. And this fall/winter, I really want to start on the follow up to Six Train.

 RW- Who are your favorite authors?

Charlaine Harris and Laurell K Hamilton are two authors I really love because they do cross genre so well.  

I’m a huge fan of Sue Monk Kidd and Alice Sebold–they have such beautiful writing.  

I also love YA fiction–Jay Asher and John Green move me to tears with their books.

RW- Do you have any recommendations or thoughts to share with aspiring writers?

You may have to hear hundreds of rejections before you get that one yes. That’s okay. It’s all part of the process to make you a better writer. Listen, absorb, and learn. It truly is a craft not a calling. So practice is essential. Keep writing and keep putting your work out there. It’s the only way you’ll ever get that elusive yes.

 And if you are getting lots of personalized rejections on full manuscript requests where they compliment your writing, but telling you they don’t know how to sell it, then it may be the time to consider indie publishing. Because maybe your story is ready, but it’s just not a big enough moneymaker for traditional publishing.



Kourtney Heintz – Author

 Kourtney resides in Connecticut with her warrior lapdog, Emerson, her supportive parents and three quirky golden retrievers. Years of working on Wall Street provided the perfect backdrop for her imagination to run amuck at night, imagining a world where out-of-control telepathy and buried secrets collide.

 RW– Please include any links you have to share.

Website: includes purchase links.


Facebook Page:



Taylor Swift Ticket Giveaway:



Filed under Author Interview, Book Review, Books, Introduction, Literary Fiction, Mixed Genre, prose, Thriller

Book Review – The Book of Names: A Novel

review by Rich Weatherly

Best selling authors Jill Gregory and Karen Tintori deliver a well crafted, thoroughly researched

The Book of Names by Jill Gregory and Karen Tintori.

suspense thriller in Book of Names. Get ready for a sweeping cinematic portrayal of a world spinning out of control. This panoramic story reaches back to the dawn of man drawing on a Talmudic tradition that Adam compiled the Book of Names. This book is believed to list thirty-six Lamed Vovniks for each generation of humankind. According to the legend, these righteous souls stand between life as we know it and the apocalypse.

Early in the story we learn that three kids fall from the icy roof of a building. The protagonist experiences a near death experience. The repercussions of this event will include severe headaches which will haunt him with flashes of random names. Once these begin, he starts a journal. That journal becomes a central object of concern and actions by the protagonist and his enemies.

A syncretic cult, the Gnoseos has made its goal, the elimination of the Lamed Vovnickks. Members of Gnoseos hale from the rich and powerful across the globe. This sect attempts to use Kabbalistic, esoteric mysticism and the occult to calculate the current names of the righteous souls so they can destroy them. One of the members of the Gnoseos worked for twelve years as a `loyal’ assistant to an archaeologist. When his mentor discovered the Book of Names in the desert near Cairo the assistant turned traitor. He killed his boss and took off with the precious papyri. This would become the spark that would lead to a string of targeted killings.

Protagonist David Shepherd, a poli-sci professor, finds himself caught up in this maelstrom chain of events. When he learns his step-daughter Stacy is on the list of the Lamed Vovniks his life becomes a relentless search for answers. This includes attempts to identify the current thirty-six Lamed Vovniks and stones representing the original twelve tribes of Isreal as well. Kabbalists have long used a Hebrew system of numerology called gematria to extract hidden meaning from from the Torah. One tool they use is ELS, equidistant letter sequences to find hidden words in the text. Before computers, this was next to impossible. Imagine a giant crossword puzzle processing in every possible direction then changing the value of the spacing and starting all over again. Unfortunately, both Hebrew rabbis and members of the Gnoseos are racing to locate all of the names. As the Gnoseos identifies a name, they kill everyone they can find with the same name. The side that finds all thirty-six Lamed Vovniks will win; one side trying to save them, the other eliminate them.

Book of Names delivers relentless action as the Gnoseos attempt to take out the protagonist and his allies. He and a beautiful Israeli agent prove to be well equipped to face a series of attacks. Scenes pass by crisply. This is a battle between ingenious protagonists and a determined enemy. Be prepared for action that builds through a stunning crescendo toward a high stakes climax. Expect a good `ole knock down, drag out.

This would make a great action adventure motion picture. It is a genuine page turner without a boring moment.
Enjoy this amazing thriller.

Publishers Book Description

Release date: January 9, 2007

Within each generation, there are thirty-six righteous souls. Their lives hold the key to the fate of the world. Now someone wants them dead.

When a childhood tragedy comes back to haunt Professor David Shepherd, he finds himself in possession of knowledge that holds the world in a delicate balance. He uncovers the Book of Names—an ancient text originating with the biblical Adam, and thought lost to history forever. By Kabbalistic tradition, the book contains the names of each generation’s thirty-six righteous souls—the Hidden Ones—by whose merits alone the world continues to exist. Legend holds that if all thirty-six Hidden Ones were eliminated, the world would meet its end.

When the Hidden Ones start dying of unnatural causes, the world grows increasingly unstable: war in Afghanistan, massive flooding in New York, brutal terrorist attacks in Melbourne, a tanker explosion in Iran. David finds himself battling against the Gnoseos, a secret religious sect whose goal is to destroy the world by eliminating all of the righteous souls. David’s involvement quickly turns personal when his stepdaughter’s name is discovered to be one of the endangered. With the help of a brilliant and beautiful Israeli ancient texts expert, David races to decipher the traditions of the Kabbalah to save the righteous souls, his stepdaughter, and perhaps the world.

Authors and Book Links

Purchase The Book of Names on Amazon
Jill Gregory Author Page

Jill Gregory New York Times Best Selling Author


Karen Tintori Author Page

Karen Tintori Best Selling Author


Filed under Book Review, Books, Thriller

Closed Doors, A Trilogy

Rich Weatherly’s new book, Closed Doors is Live on as of July 24, 2012

Quote by Editor, Erin Potter

Wonderful story! Like the others, well written with well chosen words and description that leaps off the page. I felt involved in the stories and wanted more.

Quote from friend, author and blogger, Sandy Coelho

Reader’s will be treated to a vivid compelling story with Toxic Situations. Your writing is engaging; it launches the reader into the story and takes them on a fast-paced thrill ride. I think anyone searching for absorbing, lyrical prose will love this collection.

Closed Doors opens with a novella, Toxic Situations. A break-in at an Atlanta, Georgia laboratory results in the theft of avian flu virus capsules by organized crime figures and an investigation by the CDC.

CDC investigators pursue suspects on a trail from Atlanta to Sydney, Australia. Protagonists for for the novella and short stories are named Craig. Craig Jr. is featured in the novella, Toxic Situations. This story was inspired by a paper written by Dr. JJBrown. Dr. Brown has specialized in viral oncology.

Toxic Situations is followed by two short story prequels: Family Secrets and Thrills at the Esplanade Cinema. These short stories are set in north Texas.

Each story has ties to the Craig Wells family.

Here’s a final quote from Belinda Witzenhausen
Freelance Writer, Editor, Artist, Consultant and Creativity Coach

“After reading Rich Weatherly’s “Closed Doors: A Trilogy”, I am convinced that he is an extremely talented writer who has some fascinating stories to tell. His ability to craft interesting characters and intrigue you with compelling plots while maintaining such a high standard of writing throughout, is brilliant and the mark of a true storyteller.  I thoroughly enjoyed this book and cannot wait to read his future work; he definitely has a fan in me.”

Rich Weatherly’s Independent Author Network Page

Cover design by S.L. Coelho


Filed under Books, Introduction, Publishing, Texas, Thriller, Writing

Author Interview: Black Loon Lake

by Sandy Coelho

I’m pleased to bring back Sandy Coelho to answer questions about why she wrote, Black Loon Lake. I’m including the book description to help set the context of our conversation.

by SL Coelho

Black Loon Lake, novella cover

 Black Loon Lake Book Description

The novelette Black Loon Lake is rooted in the back-country of British Columbia’s wilderness, where it sets the stage for a tension building, suspenseful read. Three tree planters take advantage of a short break between planting seasons, rest and rejuvenation are on the agenda. What actually happens, no one could have predicted. Engrossing, chilling, and creepy; this vivid, fast paced story is written to entertain.
Tranquil, timeless and treacherous. Those who venture there, are dying to see it!

Welcome back, Sandy. I found Black Loon Lake to be thrilling fiction. Your description of the landscape and the characters within the story gave me a sense of genuine authenticity. While the story is fiction, I’m convinced much of it is based in reality.

  • I believe you’ve mentioned that you and your, family have camped in the British Columbia wilderness which is the setting for the story. Would you like to share some of those experiences?

You’re correct. Before we had our two youngest children, my husband and I spent nearly every weekend from mid-May to mid-September camping at Forestry Reserve sites. Many of these sites are deep in the back country of British Columbia and have zero amenities, but have some of the most spectacular scenery and fishing you can imagine. You must be prepared for every contingency because you are over 2 hours from the nearest town, and there is no cell phone reception. The Conservation officers are strict on rules, what you pack in, you pack out – they take preservation seriously. If you ever have the opportunity to camp like this – it should be tried at least once. It is a serene, beautiful experience.

  • The central characters are tree planters. How did you happen to choose this as background of your characters?

Living in B.C. we’ve come to know a few tree planters. I also researched the profession. It is a difficult way to make money, but their stories have kept us entertained for hours. They are an important part of the green movement and reforestation. If it wasn’t for the hard work of a tree planter – future generations may not have wood to build homes, furniture or know the importance the eco-system plays in the health of our planet. We owe them much IMHO.

  • You feature a Conservation Officer in the story. What has your typical experience with these professionals and do you know what their usual roll is?

I have friends in this diverse profession, I asked questions and conducted research. In a nutshell, they conserve and protect our natural resources, enforce provincial compliance with environmental laws, and are involved in search and rescue. They have a special investigations unit which deals with criminal behavior which may have an environmental impact.

  • Have you had contact with dangerous creatures in the wilderness?

Yes. This province is primarily forest so wildlife encounters are unavoidable. We’ve encountered Bears (Black, Brown) and have seen Grizzlies from a distance; Moose (which can be extremely dangerous), and Cougar not far from our current home. In fact, this morning we had Conservation Officers knock at our door to warn us a large black bear was spotted in our neighbor’s yard earlier in the day. My husband has had a close encounter with a rattlesnake, he just missed stepping on it – he was warned by its rattle. You have to be aware of your surroundings and go out prepared – then you can enjoy the beauty without fear.

  • My purpose with this interview is to draw more readers to your compelling story. Are there other comments you would like to add?

Without giving anything away, I think Black Loon Lake is a relevant, fun read. It’s a novelette so not too big a time commitment. If you enjoy a thrill, pick it up, in fact…download it to your e-device and enjoy it while you’re camping!

Rich, thank you for taking the time to feature my story. You have said you enjoyed it and I hope others will also find it entertaining. I appreciate being here and your support. I’m deeply grateful.


Filed under Author Interview, Book Review, Books, Creative Process, Thriller

Black Loon Lake Promo Draw

Author and friend, Sandy Coelho is hosting a promotion related to her current release of

by SL Coelho

Black Loon Lake, novella cover

a thrilling novella, Black Loon Lake.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Black Loon Lake Promotional Draw – How to Enter

Welcome back! Finally, the Rules and HOW TO ENTER the Black Loon Lake   Promotional Draw.
Summer is almost upon us, and to celebrate; Purple Birch Publishing   is sponsoring a draw.Beginning Monday May 28th, 2012 winners will be selected at random using for various prizes, culminating with the Grand prize on June 1st, 2012 to be drawn at 12:00 noon (PST).
How to Enter and the Rules:


Filed under Books, Prizes, Publishing, Thriller

Book Review — Sins of the Son

Sins of the Son

By Linda Poitevin

Dark Urban Fantasy

A detective with a secret.Available March 27, 2012
An exiled angel turned assassin.
And a world with little chance of redemption…

Available March 27, 2012

This gripping sequel to Sins of the Angels will keep you spellbound. As you read the book description below, you will recognize the characters if you read Sins of the Angels. In Sins of the Son the stakes are raised and the fate of humankind is in jeopardy.

 Book Description for Sins of the Son       

                                                   A detective with a secret…

When homicide detective Alexandra Jarvis sees a photo of Seth Benjamin on a police bulletin, she knows that Heaven’s plan to halt Armageddon has gone terribly wrong. As the only mortal aware of Seth’s true nature, only she can save him.

                                               An exiled angel turned assassin…

Aramael was a hunter of Fallen Angels until a traitor forced him into earthly exile. Now, with no powers and only a faint memory of Alex, his mortal soulmate, he will stop at nothing to redeem himself—even if it means destroying Seth in the name of the Creator.

                                         A world with little chance of redemption…

As Alex’s need to protect Seth sets her on a fiery course with the determined Aramael, the coming conflict between them may push the world over the edge—and into the very chaos they’re trying to prevent.


the review…

At the heart of the story is an agreement between The One and Lucifer. Seth – The Appointed will transition to earth. Based on his decision, humankind will be saved if he makes a choice in line with the powers of Heaven. But, if he sides with Lucifer, Armageddon will be triggered and mortals will be wiped out.

There is a problem with Seth’s transition. He has entered the mortal realm as an adult with his powers intact. The problem is, he has no memory of who he is, or what he is to do. Alexandra Jarvis worked with Seth about a month earlier and she has the key to his understanding.

Alexandra finds Seth in a mental institution. Psychiatrist Elizabeth Riley refers to Seth as John Doe. Dr. Riley is totally skeptical of anything and everything supernatural. Meanwhile, the plot thickens as near irrefutable evidence builds suggesting that Lucifer and his fallen ones are spawning a new race of Nephilim.

The story will keep you guessing on how it will end. You will travel from Toronto to Vancouver. Character development is a highpoint. You will get a good grasp of who the players are and what their intent is. Tension will build to a stunning climax as opposing forces take turns trying to outwit the opponent. Ever present figures remain Seth Benjamin, Alexandra Jarvis and Aramael, Alexandra’s soulmate.

If you are prone to predicting the outcome of the novel you are reading, good luck with this one.

For more information about Linda Poitevin and The Grigori Legacy, click the following link.


Filed under Book Review, Thriller

Review of the Novel – Pentecost, a Thriller

PentecostPentecost by Joanna Penn

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Pentecost. A Thriller. (Kindle Edition)

Readers of action adventure and suspense-thrillers will love Pentecost by Joanna Penn. Get ready for a globe hopping journey that will take you from India to Arizona with numerous stops in-between.

Morgan Sierra once served with Israel’s IDF and she knows her way around in combat. She left that life to become an academic trained at Oxford as a biblical scholar and in psychology. She and her twin sister possess what is said to be Apostle’s Stones, stones taken from the tomb of Christ after the resurrection. There are people who believe these stones give the holder great power. This leads to the kidnapping of Morgan’s sister Faye and niece Gemma.

Two powerful organizations are determined to collect all of the stones. They believe these stones were the source of astonishing events on the original Day of Pentecost in Act 2 of the New Testament. Morgan will do anything to rescue Faye and Gemma. One organization, Thanatos collects occult and religious objects and believes that if they follow Morgan she will lead them to the stones in her effort to affect a rescue.

Morgan is eventually persuaded to join forces with ARKANE against her own better judgment. It is the lesser of two evils as far as she is concerned. ARKANE does have advantages. Using powerful computers and a massive network of resources, they promise to help Morgan in her quest. ARKANE will do anything to keep Thanatos away from the stones because Thanatos will stop at nothing that gets in their way.

As the story unfolds the reader follows Morgan as she uses data gained from research to track down the remaining stones. It is a race against time and unimaginable consequences.

Joanna Penn’s Pentecost is filled with vivid images taken from holy shrines around the world. If you’re into action and fight scenes, you won’t be disappointed. Readers of historical fiction will enjoy revelations gleaned from painstaking research.

Joanna’s work has been compared to Dan Brown and Morgan Sierra to Lora Croft. I’d venture to suggest that fans of Clive Cussler will enjoy the book as well. Get a copy of Pentecost and you have a real pager turner in your hands. You will not be disappointed.

View all my reviews


Filed under Book Review, Thriller

Thrills at the Esplanade Cinema

DSCI1359 Regal movie theater in Nashville

Image by bresslau via Flickr

Thrills at the Esplanade Cinema

Featuring an Usher, Mr. Machen and Faithful Friends

A Short Story


Rich Weatherly

The once rural community of Huntsford changed after World War II. In recent years, large segments of the population migrated from farms to the cities. Roads and highways spread like tendrils across the lush green prairies. Grazing land and farm country morphed into housing developments. The economic boom padded the pockets of young baby boomers. Their loose change fueled the coffers of the Esplanade Cinema like oil from a pipeline. I worked at the Esplanade.

My walk to work took me across fields and pastures. Those walks reminded me of the farm where I lived and worked only a year earlier. In 1960 I cut and baled hay, herded cattle and did farm chores. Walks across fields on the edges of Huntsford brought back simple pleasures as the gentle breezes carried the sweet smell of fresh cut hay or the sounds of cattle lowing across the few remaining meadows. Yet this was a time and place for transitions.

The end of my walk brought me to the Esplanade Cinema. It anchored the west end of our first shopping center. King Boy’s Burgers was right on my way to the Esplanade; across the street from the theater. The proximity created a mutual attraction, since both businesses benefited from the influx of customers. My mouth watered in anticipation of grilled burgers each time I passed by. I wonder how many folks drove to King Boy’s for burgers only to be lured into an evening of fantasy at the theater.

At the Esplanade, good friends and a fair boss offered camaraderie and fulfillment. The theater was a wonderful place to work – close to home near places to meet and greet. You should have seen the place at night. It was like magic. Glow of neon lit the marquee with brilliant colors; reds and yellows danced across glistening panels while a neon star crowned the very top. The star appeared to dance when illuminated – rising, falling and collapsing on itself between oscillations, like a rolling wave on the open sea; a hypnotic illusion created by masters of lighting. The cycle repeated until the theater shutdown for the night.

The white marquee advertised the current attraction in letters we mounted one at a time – it took skill and patience to get the letters exactly where they belonged; each one placed on a long pole, lifted to the ledge and dropped in a groove. We nudged and adjusted the letter tiles into a secure spot where they remained until the next movie came along. Imagine posting a title like: The Pit and the Pendulum, featuring Roger Corman and Vincent Price.

I entered the theater through one of four sets of double-doors. As I arrived one day my boss, Mr. Machen announced some errands for me to take care of across town. He took notice at my surprise when he gave me the keys to his 1959 T-Bird. My assignment – transport records to another theater and deliver a briefcase full of cash to the bank. After I finished the errand he gave me another one – take a purchase order to the Palace Theater and pay for seats their owner removed to make room for new ones. Esplanade could do without ‘designer’ seats. These older ones met the Mr. Machen’s approval without exception. His practicality and frugality always on display.

The curtain rose every night like clockwork. It took a lot of hard work to get the Esplanade Cinema ready for the next show. Mr. Machen would hire a cleanup crew to take care of the really disgusting work: toilets, heavy vacuuming. People spilled drinks, dropped popcorn and candy wrappers anywhere: on the floor, in the seats, between the seats. Gum stuck to the bottom of seats like lumpy tacks. Don’t ever check to see. Trust me. You don’t want to find out.

The cleanup crew didn’t mess around. Their heavy-duty vacuums and shampoo equipment attacked the maroon and black speckled Berber carpet extending from the entry to the dais under the movie screen. After the cleanup, the theater crew made a final inspection walking the aisles and checking between seats to ensure nothing was amiss spot cleaning as we went. Craig and I were ushers. Karen and Roberta worked as greeters and in concessions.

The last few hours before opening changed priorities. Ticket sales were number one. No sales, no job. Jill, our ticket agent, worked the booth selling tickets. If she needed a break, the rest of us pitched in.

Priority number two. Get the concessions area ready for business when our customers’ arrived. Several things occurred simultaneously; safety always paramount. We started by making popcorn because heating up the popcorn machine took time. Lift the kettle lid and add the kernels to boiling oil. This required extra care. Hot oil can cause third degree burns. The sound of the stainless steel kettle jiggling in clear view excited and mesmerized customers, delivering the intended effect. We passed them boxes of luscious buttery popcorn, they handed over their cash. If more persuasion was needed, the sights, sounds and aroma did the rest to keep the customers coming. While the popcorn popped, the soda machine operator poured the soft drinks – ice in a cup, pull down a lever, fill them with syrup and add carbonated water. Getting the fresh popcorn and drinks out on the service counter meant the concessions area was ready for business.

While Craig and I helped the girls prepare the concessions area our projectionist, Sid arrived through a side entrance with heavy cases of movie reels. He dashed up the balcony stairs and through a side door to the projection booth. Viewing ports next to the projection lens provided a clear view of the entire theater.

Ticket sales escalated as curtain time drew near. Customers waited in two lines; one to purchase tickets, the other to get in. Crowds were often restless, always eager to rush the doors for the best seats. No one wanted to get in their way. A pushy mob is dangerous. Unlatching the door was tricky, the only barrier to a stampeding hoard. One instant after the doors opened, the Esplanade’s aura resembled a midway of yelling, pushing thrill seekers. Parents of the teens dropped them off wanting a break and time to themselves. Things settled into a normal routine once the mob became a crowd again.

As one of the ushers, my job required more than escorting guests to their seats. Besides clearing obstructions from the aisles, looking for items of clothing, money, wallets people may have dropped in the dark, we provided a broad array of services on request. During my rounds, I directed a flashlight beam where needed, sometimes helping those with night blindness or pointing out objects someone might trip over. Ushers are charged with maintaining order. Most of the audience is young and must be reminded they are not in a school yard. We spent more time controlling unruly kids than we should have because many would not cooperate. Rebels needed to be escorted from the auditorium. One lad when asked to quiet down one refused. I escorted him out the way my mom would have; by thumb and forefinger. Those two digits work rather well when clamped to the offender’s ear. It’s amazing how cooperative he became when in my grasp. I took him straight out the door and told him not to come back.

By contrast, I greeted an elderly woman waiting at the back of the auditorium and helped her to a seat. She wore a pleasing fragrance of expensive cologne and fresh body powder. When I greeted her she politely requested an aisle seat. I offered her my arm and led her to a seat, shining the flashlight on the floor, giving her time to sit and get settled.

Glancing toward the balcony, I noticed a young woman leaning back in her seat, ankles elevated and pink penny-loafers crisscrossed on the armrest in front of her. When she realized I noticed her, she became defiant. I looked away for a moment hoping she would take her feet off the armrest. Still no response. She knew her actions violated theater rules because of the signs posted everywhere. Her behavior distracted other guests and her actions were damaging the furniture.

I felt the situation reaching a flash point. She remained defiant. Even her outfit screamed anarchy: gold and black striped sweater, patent leather belt, pink miniskirt. Approaching her, I spoke clearly. “Please place your feet on the floor, Miss. You know the rules.” A primal stare was her answer. I stepped back as her rebellion escalated into rage. In an instant, the vixen bared her teeth, cheeks flushed; her eyes ablaze and nostrils flared. Her knuckles turned white as she gripped the armrest berating my efforts to reason with her. I left in frustration and retreated down the steps away from her childish display – let her gloat, convinced she’d won the day.

I fought hard to control the adrenaline surging through my body. Down in the main auditorium, I composed myself, considering my next course of action. A moment later I called Craig, the other usher over and directed his attention to the girl. I asked him to keep an eye on the girl while I informed Mr. Machen of the situation. A few days earlier he provided instructions on actions to take when a situation got out of hand. I knocked on his office door. When he asked me to come in I briefed him on the problem. He asked me to keep him informed. Still trying to calm my nerves, I continued to monitor the balcony when the situation went from bad to worse.

The vixen’s boyfriend arrived with an entourage of six other thugs, with their jet black hair slicked back, black leather jackets and red shirts with collars turned up. They resembled James Dean. Their jeans were all cinched by studded leather belts. The leader wore black boots with silver tipped toes. West Side Story meets Gentleman’s Quarterly in the early ‘60s. The guy swaggered toward me, an usher with a crew cut. Guido. Surely it was some such name.

He closed in, his snarling, menacing face staring under a twisted brow; his pursed lips twisting into a sneer. The gang of six formed a semi-circle behind me curving from left to right. Rigid robots awaiting orders to pounce, shifting like snakes to intimidate a clean-cut kid in their way.

“Whatta __ ya doin’ getting fresh wit my girl, you fuzzy headed stooge. You tryin’ to be friendly or somethin’, usher boy?”

I locked my eyes on his. “Are you referring to a certain young woman in the balcony, sir? I asked her to obey the theater rules and place her feet on the floor. Her legs were propped up on the furniture.”

“That’s not what she told me! You better apologize for getting fresh wit my fiancée!”

I drew back a little. “I don’t know what you’re talking about. I’m only doing my job.”

Guido stomped, jerked his shoulders and whipped out a shiny switch blade slicing the air as he flicked the tip from side-to-side inches from my face; the point inching closer. He twisted his wrist and the blade rolled and twitched from side to side. “She said you made a pass at her!”

“I did not. Let’s try to calm down for a minute and talk about what really happened.”

I was nearly at wits end when, Mr. Machen called out to Guido. “Put the knife down and step away!” The boss then opened his jacket where a 1911 Colt 45 ACP semi-automatic pistol gleamed in his shoulder holster. About the same time, sirens screamed in the distance. Guido and his gang turned pale at the sudden reversal.

Watching the scene unfold below, vixen bolted down the stairs on a determined trajectory to the west EXIT sign. Guido and his cronies fled behind her into the arms of the police. We never saw Guido, his gang or the vixen again.

A short time later Mr. Machen told me Sid noticed the threat, called him and notified the police. I owed Sid and Mr. Machen a debt of gratitude; they saved my bacon. I tried to relax but chills ran up my spine. I said, “Mr. Machen, thank for your help. I don’t know what might have happened otherwise.”

“Let’s go to my office,” he said.

A smell fresh tobacco and Old Spice shaving lotion filled the office. These odors permeated the little room. The scent of his wife’s perfume lingered from an earlier visit. After I sat down, he leaned forward. “I can’t say how sorry I am this happened on your watch, kid. I was a Golden Gloves boxer. And I’m no stranger to trouble.” After giving me time for his comment to sink in, he continued. “I always stay prepared. Try not to dwell on this incident otherwise it’ll drive you nuts.”

“Yes, sir.”

“The movie’s underway and it’s getting late. How about you call it a night? You are too shook up to keep on working.”

I thanked him and headed home, tired and in shock thinking on what might have been.


I continued working at the Esplanade, as did my friends – Craig the other usher, Karen, Roberta who worked concessions, and Jill our ticket agent. Sid, our projectionist along and Mr. Machen, may have saved my life. I stayed on until June of 1963. Events of the night gave me enough sobering reality to last a lifetime – all because one girl and her guy were bent on a life of rebellion.

I gave Mr. Machen notice letting him know of my active duty commitment with the Navy. I never saw my old boss again but will always have fond memories of the man and the Esplanade Cinema. He ran a tight ship, hired good people and took care of them.


The couple in black – Guido and his vixen; my hope is they turned their backs on their rebellious life style and pursued a better life. Some rebels eventually do, becoming pillars of the community. Others go from bad to worse. Some go to prison but some die because they never learned.

A month after graduating high school I packed up and hopped a Sante Fe passenger train, eventually arriving at the Great Lakes Naval Training Center in North Chicago. There I worked and studied. Six months later after graduating from electronics school I headed home. I was getting my medical records at the base infirmary on November 22, 1963 when terrible news blasted over the loud-speaker– “President John F. Kennedy has been shot in Dallas.” A hush fell over the room, everyone in stunned disbelief. Confusion reigned. All hung their heads in sadness and many said prayers as we shuffled toward the exit, each continuing on to our respective destinations.

The train ride home was a long one. I slept most of the trip, too depressed to do much else. Two days later the train arrived in Dallas. Something caused a delay as the train slowed to enter the station.  Later we learned the Lee Harvey Oswald shooting took place in the county jail near Dealy Plaza where President Kennedy was shot on Friday. A few months later my ship patrolled Pacific islands like Iwo Jima, Saipan, Tinian and Truk Atoll where only twenty years earlier US forces fought bloody battles against the Japanese. Not quite a year later we patrolled the shore line and estuaries of South Vietnam; part of the blockade known as Operation Market Time. The US was up to its ears in another bloody war. The Vietnam War lasted most of another decade. I lost friends and comrades at arms in Vietnam. Their memories still haunt me. Looking back, my problem at the Esplanade added another check mark on my list of painful lessons and another cause for reflection.

Those were hard times for me. In the span of three years of my life I lived through the following:  an assault at the point of a knife; lost my dad, a survivor of the attack on Pearl Harbor, retraced World War II battles and engaged an enemy at war. My outlook on life took on new meaning as a result.

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I owe my editor and friend Mary McReynolds a debt of gratitude for her unselfish and helpful recommendations. You can view her work at:

This is a work of fiction. Any resemblance to real or fictional characters is purely coincidental.

© 2011 Richard L Weatherly


Filed under Cinema, Thriller