Holiday decorating includes book gift suggestions

Holiday decorating in this household includes displaying novels by Richard Morris as gift suggestions. Especially for thriller fans, tie together copies of Well Considered by Richard Morris and Sycamore Row by John Grisham, which share similar plots, one in Maryland and the other in Mississippi. Richard’s other books include: Cologne No. 10 for Men, Canoedling in Cleveland, and Masjid Morning.

In addition to availability of his novels online, anyone lucky enough to be in the vicinity of Hyattsville, MD, can find Richard Morris’s novels at My Dead Aunt’s Books, Franklins General Store, and Busboys and Poets.

My Dead Aunt’s Books, located inside Tanglewood Works, is celebrating “Green is the New Black” today, Nov. 23, 2018.

“Go green. Spend your green on your local small business. We bring so much fun to this corner every day. Come enjoy yourself at US #1 and Gallatin. Look for the book carts.

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Tanglewood Works

I’m telling you! Green IS the New Black. Tanglewood green that is. Party is all day Friday. Treats, festive tunes, and a free gift for buyers sporting GREEN. Put your shopping $$ towards reclaimed and recycled this year. Momma Earth thanks you.”

Additionally shoppers on Nov. 24 can take advantage of Franklins Sooper Dooper 20% off sale:

Franklins Restaurant, Brewery and General Store's photo.














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Green Book’s relevance to two recent book club discussions

Although the Bridging Cultural Gaps book group was completing its discussion of selections from Howard Zinn’s People’s History of the United States and had selected for its book in December How Fascism Works: The Politics of Us and Them, somehow the discussion turned to The Negro Motorist Green Book that African American motorists used as a guide to locating places to lodge and places to eat when traveling during Jim Crow. Forgotten at this point as to why the topic arose, but it was not because there is a current movie titled Green Book, although one book group member did share information that there would soon be a movie out by this name about this topic. Further discussion revealed that a number of white book club participants had previously been unaware of this guide book publication, and once again the entire group exploded with, “Why was I unaware of this?” — “Why don’t we learn these things about our history?” — “I was an adult before I knew … (whatever).” There was a great deal of interest in seeing the movie when it would come to local theaters.

Today Facebook shares “‘Green Book’ is ‘full of lies’: Dr. Don Shirley’s Family Speaks Out.”  “On November 21, with the controversial new Peter Farrelly film Green Book coming to theaters this holiday weekend, family members of the Black music prodigy who is featured in the film spoke out against his portrayal on NPR’s 1A Movie Club.”

The article about the interviews on NPR’s 1A Movie Club contained a link to “‘Green Book’ is a Poorly Titled White Savior Film.” This title is what tied Green Book to a different book club meeting where Richard Morris’s novel Well Considered was discussed, and the author’s wife was invited to attend. Other participants would have had no idea at all that there was this linkage, so here is the explanation. Members of this book club were discussing Well Considered’s African American protagonist Ron Watkins and commenting upon his determination and persistence in finding out the truth about his great-grandfather. Someone commented that every time Ron ran near Jimmy Clay’s house, there was the mental reaction of wanting to be able to advise Ron to not go there. (Spoiler alert:) Then there was the comment that once Ron was trapped and his friends came to save him, Ron instead saved them! (but this spoiler should not keep one from reading the book as there is so much more to experience). There was also another location in the story where Ron found himself in great peril. As discussions are wont to do, this one,, moved on and came to a close without the author’s wife sharing important information about “why.” In the manner that some authors write, Richard Morris never knew how the story was going to end; he would put his characters in a situation without knowing how they would get out. The only thing he did know during this writing was that there would not be a “white savior,” and some plot possibilities were eliminated in order to avoid that pitfall.

Perhaps this is part of the reason that Robert Fleming of the African American Literary Book Club ( was able to write, “Some critics have often said white authors cannot capture the soul and passion of African American characters, but that is not the case with Richard Morris’s aptly titled novel of race, hate, eugenics, and violence … Mr. Morris, a white man, has been looking and listening to all of the nuances of modern life, especially the joys and disappointments of Black culture and history. Through Ron, he examines the fear, insecurity, and potency of the American Black man, which some of our authors dismiss as just cheap machismo, gangsta posturing, and emotional shallowness … The writer looks favorably on the spice and spunk of our families, our husbands and wives, as they make their way bravely into the white world … With on-target commentary on race, sex, crime, family, social and gender issues, and mob violence, Well Considered is a profoundly memorable and affecting novel of an African American Man trying to come to grips with the hate-filled past and the poisonous divisive present.”

The “white savior” article contained many topics that should be discussed in both book clubs and other settings such as blogs, but that is for another time.

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In honor of male friends

Bill and Stephanie Byers

On the November 21, 2018 first anniversary of Richard Morris’s death, there are others who also need to be remembered — his network of best friends who, one by one, died before him.

Brought to mind during the recent book club discussion of Well Considered was Bill Byers, who along with his wife and another couple, shepherded Richard chapter-by-chapter through the writing of that novel. Book club members questioned whether protagonist Ron Watkins and his new neighbors would have so quickly gotten past superficial neighborly existence to the essence of the conversations about race that took place in the novel. Some of those conversations were inspired by actual conversations between Richard Morris and Bill Byers, who after World War II returned home to a racist USA and for a time lived instead in Mexico. Bill, who was substantially older than Richard, complained, “All my friends are dying.” Richard replied, “You need younger friends.” Here is a post written by Morris about Byers Bill also read and commented upon Richard’s other novels, being somewhat disappointed that the canoeing adventure in Canoedling in Cleveland was the main part of the story while the teens’ “canoodling” of the adults in order to understand residential segregation was more of a subplot.

Svend Lauritsen

Svend Lauritsen was Richard’s “Danish brother.” An AFS student who lived with Richard’s family during high school, Svend was brilliant and more fluent in English than most of us. At dinner Richard’s father would attempt to “stump” Svend with English word challenges. The friendship continued over their lifetimes and through children and grandchildren. Svend and his wife traveled though the U.S. southwest with Richard and his wife, and his daughter traveled with the Morris family from Maryland to Key West, into Canada, and back to the Cleveland suburb where her father and Richard met. Richard and family made trips to Denmark. Each novel that Richard Morris wrote was sent to Svend Lauritsen for his insightful edits and comments. Searching this website reveals a draft “In memoriam” post about Lauritsen that Richard Morris wrote and sent back to high school classmates. Likely the unpublished minute details including many family member names were too many for Richard to feel comfortable about posting it to this website where posts are public.

David L. Levy, 1936-2014

David Levy met Richard Morris through a local authors’ presentation shortly after the opening date of Busboys and Poets in Hyattsville, MD. followed by another presentation at BBP a year later. They met weekly thereafter, often exhibiting books together at festivals and participating in a second Busboys and Poets local authors event. Levy was the person who called attention to the similarity of the underlying theme of Well Considered (2010) by Richard Morris and Sycamore Row (2013) by John Grisham – a land grab being the motive for a lynching, which undoubtedly happened frequently whether in Maryland or Mississippi. David Levy appears many times in a search of this website and blog posts, but here is the final post:

Michael Gollin

His best friend just prior to Richard’s death was Michael Gollin who died on November 20, 2017, one day before Richard died. Until Morris’s hospitalization approximately a month before he died, he made weekly visits to Gollin’s home. Over the years the “conversation” shifted from lively discussion of the writings of each, Michael’s work as a patent attorney dealing with intellectual property, their travels, religion, and politics, to a more limited one playing twenty questions or with Michael using his eyes to focus on letters of a chart to be able to communicate. Here is one of Richard’s blog posts about Michael:

These are the deceased friends who had the most connection with Richard Morris’s writing – more cerebral than what one might often think of regarding male friends; not the usual image of man-cave sports, hunting, fishing, golfing, and friendship through physical activity or the bonding of war. There were also others to whom Richard devoted his attention prior to their deaths and came away feeling enriched.

For a while, overlapping with his Bill Byers’ friendship, Richard regularly visited Quentin Burgess, whom Richard had met through his multiple myeloma support group – another Vietnam vet whose cancer presumably was caused by Agent Orange. Quentin had been in military intelligence and later worked for the Federal Aviation Administration. He regaled us with stories of dealing with FAA passenger complaints and the time his military CO called him in after Burgess had received a communication from the office of Angela Davis.

David Dacquisto

Even as far back as 2008 Richard regularly visited his friend, David (Dac) Dacquisto, whom Richard had met through his work at the NAHB Research Center where Dac was vice president of technology from 1984 to 2002. Dac died from a brain tumor in 2008 at the age of 53. In a different life, with Richard as a connector, David might have become friends with Michael Gollin, as they received their JD degrees within eight years of each other (Dac from Harvard in 1976 and Michael from Boston U. in 1984) and went on to specialize in technologies and innovation in their careers.

Sy Mohr and Haitian Madonna

Other male friends who were recipients of Richard Morris’s “visiting” commitment and who enriched Morris during the process were David Goodkind and Sy Mohr, for whom Richard created an artist’s website:

Additionally, Richard Morris had close male friends who are still living. But this post is to honor the ones who are deceased and to recognize the magnitude of friendship. Any stereotypical gender classification and thought may be faulted to the writer of this post who could not help but see a category of male friendship but also saw it as a testament to the kind of friend that Richard Morris was — on this day before his one year date of death.

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Representing the author

Well Considered by Richard Morris was the book discussed this week at a local book club in Prince George’s County, MD. The author’s wife was invited to attend and comment regarding the writing of the novel which Morris published in 2010.


Random papers and selected artifacts pulled for “show-and-tell” were revealing, even for someone this close to the writing and research for the novel. One such paper was a table compiled by the author, “Resident Population by Race, Prince George’s County,” which not only illustrated “white flight,” in which 316,648 white residents left the County between 1970 and 2002, but also that the Black population was at 68.57% (of 20,589) in 1810, declined to 8.68% (of 357,395) in 1960, and by 2002 was back up to 64.40% (of 833,677).

Another artifact was a newspaper report from the 2006 Washington Post, in Richard Morris’s files but unable to be located online, titled “Racial Slurs Make For Ugly Commute” by Ovetta Wiggins. Obviously the basis for the opening scene of Well Considered, the newspaper article described that, “Racist slurs spray-painted on a church and a nearby sound barrier disrupted the morning commute on Route 450 in Bowie yesterday, with several drivers pulling over to the side of the road to stare in disbelief … Traffic slowed to a crawl as drivers strained to get a better look, shook their heads and urgently dialed their cellphones … Members of the Southern Poverty Law Center, a civil rights organization that tracks hate groups, characterized the graffiti as the worst they had seen in the Washington Area in 15 years.”

Book club members remembered this scene from the book and had not realized how fact-based it was. They remembered thinking while reading that passers-by would not have paid much attention to the hate-filled graffiti. This is probably more a testament to the times in which we live … that such an act shocked thousands of commuters on a busy thoroughfare in 2006, but in 2018 events include at least this level of hate in the daily news palette. Even the author’s wife had forgotten how closely the fiction of Well Considered mirrored the facts reported in the Washington Post.

There were sets of printouts representing Maryland and California (states in the book), as well as other states and D.C., listing Jim Crow laws and their dates. From Maryland, (1870) “Taxes paid by colored people shall be set aside for maintaining schools for colored children;” (1872) “Schools to be established for colored children. No colored school shall be established in a district unless the colored population warrants;” (1884) Prohibited all marriages between white persons and Negroes and persons of Negro descent to third generation inclusive … subject to imprisonment between 18 months to ten years;” (1904) “All railroad companies required to provide separate cars or coaches for white and colored passengers;” (1904) “Steamboats … separate areas …;” (1908) “Steamboats … separate toilets … and sleeping cabins;” (1908) “Streetcars … separate seats;” (1924) “Miscegenation declared a felony;” (1924) “Required racially segregated schools,” etc., including (1955) “any white woman who delivered a child conceived with a Negro or mulatto would be sentenced to the penitentiary for 18 months to five years.”

There was an article about an African American community that served as a significant setting in the novel. This “retreat” never applied for incorporation and is not one of the Historic Black Townships (North Brentwood, Fairmount Heights, Glenarden, and Eagle Harbor) portrayed in “A Space of Their Own” brochure and exhibition of the Prince George’s African American Museum & Cultural Center at North Brentwood, Inc.

After a positive comment about the amount of detail provided regarding daily life in the historical parts of the novel, the author’s wife revealed that the original intent was for a book with a sequel. The history intended for the sequel was incorporated to make a book that seems to come to an end but then takes off again with a plot twist binding the two books together.

There was a discussion about lynchings and some of the underlying reasons for them, such as land grabs. The book club guest suggested that members read Sycamore Row by John Grisham (2013) for a novel with a story similar to Well Considered but told from a different point of view and in Mississippi instead of Maryland.

A question regarding the ending of Well Considered led to a comparison/contrast with Morris’s final novel, Masjid Morning. Throughout the discussion, some of the more questionable characters or events turned out to be the ones which were actually based in reality. Again, truth is stranger than fiction.


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Veterans Day recognition and appreciation for Pat Tillman

Appearing in the Washington Post this Veterans Day is an opinion piece written by Marie Tillman. Titled in the print version “Pat Tillman and Patriotic Discourse”, it speaks of legacy.

“Over the years, I’ve become used to people wanting to know what he would have thought about something in the news, or assign a way of thinking to him based on what they know about who he was at 27. They want to freeze him in time. I find it ironic because Pat was always known as a free thinker who was constantly growing. He was very different when we got together at 16 from who he was at 27, and he would have been different, too, at 42.”

Richard Morris described this maturation of thought in one of his final blogposts, “On the wrong side of history”  As a more mature person, he was sometimes embarrassed to read his opinions of a younger age, his letters home from Vietnam, and even some of his “bloodthirsty” song lyrics plus ones documenting the history of the 5th Cavalry under the leadership of Robert E. Lee.

Marie Tillman writes, “Pat lived his life with passion and respected this quality in others, once writing that, ‘to err on the side of passion is human and right and the only way I’ll live.'” Richard Morris was also passionate, especially when researching and inserting into novels the social justice issues that concerned him.

Marie Tillman continues, “Since last year, I’ve watched from the background as professional athletes have taken a knee to draw attention to injustice and racial inequality in the United States. Pat was in the military, so many people want to attach a brand of blind allegiance to him and use him to argue that kneeling during the national anthem is unpatriotic. Pat was also against the Iraq War, so many others want to use him to argue against American involvement in overseas wars. His essence is bent to fit an agenda.” Luckily, Richard Morris was not an icon whose memory can easily be manipulated. Additionally, since his death was less than one year ago, he has already spoken with regard to many current political issues and interpretations.

Thank you for your service, Pat Tillman and Richard Morris and all the others.


Songs I wrote in Vietnam in 1967 (my diary)

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Camp Radcliff

1st Cavalry Division Association 2019 calendar arrived today. Featured on the front is Camp Radcliff, Vietnam. Although Richard Morris’s Vietnam war satire, Cologne No. 10 for Men, refers to Camp Radcliff as Camp Vassar, Camp Radcliff was actually named for Major Donald Radcliff, the First Cavalry’s first combat death, and not the “Seven Sisters” college with similar spelling. Morris wrote about Camp Radcliff in his blog post “Fact or Fiction in Vietnam” Interchanging satirical names with actual names, Morris described the real Camp Radcliff:

The Last (First) Cavalry Division Base at Onkay (Ankhe)—Camp Vassar (Camp Radcliff)—had a swimming pool, officers club, NCO club, PX [store], commissary [grocery store], chapel, and library). No one carried a gun.” 

Another interesting article  describes the shopping at Camp Radcliff, “As a reporter for a division newspaper raved about the P.X. at Camp Radcliff in the Central Highlands of Vietnam: “There are a lot of shopping centers—in fact, whole towns—back in the world where you couldn’t find snuff, anchovies, baby oil, dice, flash bulbs, radios, and steak sauce in the same store, or even in the same general area. But at Camp Radcliff you can buy almost anything you want.” This article is a fascinating piece that describes the two different wars in Vietnam, that of the “REMFs” and that of the “grunts.” 

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Recognizing veterans

“Make plans now.  The Memorial Day Writers Project will hold its biannual reading on the National Mall this coming Veterans Day (Nov 11, 2018) from 11:30 am to 5:30 pm. We’ll be behind the sidewalk near 20 St.  and Constitution Ave.  Authors:  bring extra copies of your books to sell.  This is our 25th year on the Mall where we honor our veterans by celebrating and recalling their experiences through prose, poetry and song.  Tell a few friends and join us as we share our memories of good times and hard times in service to our country.”

Richard Morris will not be there to read from Cologne No. 10 for Men and to sing from Skytroopers: Songs of war, peace, and love from Vietnam.

In lieu of his participation, here are two blogposts Morris wrote; the first describes the 2010 Memorial Day Writers Project event on Veterans Day:

The second was written approximately two months prior to that when Richard was invited to speak to a high school class:


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Harvard Magazine has arrived

Artboard 2

Harvard Magazine November-December 2018 arrived this week. First two pages of “Harvard Authors’ Bookshelf” appear here.






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What fun!

A friend recently posted to Facebook (along with the notation of having himself done drawings in the link — not the 1908 catalog! — as a student 31 years ago):

For our fans of Sears Catalog Homes!

From NPR: The Sears Modern Homes catalog debuted in 1908, and it offered all the material and blueprints needed to build a house. The pieces that arrived in the mail were meant to fit together sort of like LEGOs, so buyers could build the houses themselves or hire contractors.

Learn more about Sears Houses by seeing the HABS documentation of an Alhambra model at

#HistoricHouse #SearsHouse #SearsHome #HistoricPreservation#CatalogHouses


In the early 1900s, Sears sold thousands of homes around the U.S. through its mail-order catalogs. Many of those houses are still around, and their owners are saddened by the retailer’s bankruptcy.


That’s Amy’s house! Amy is one of the protagonists in Masjid Morning by Richard Morris. He studied these homes while he was writing the novel. The one in this picture looks like the front of Amy Breckenridge’s home that Morris described on page 8 when she returns home after meeting Atif: “Her eyes swept across the stately two-story portico supported by six white columns with Corinthian scroll tops.” He refers to a sunroom on the right and a carport on the left.

Recent evidence from Richard Morris’s computer verified that Amy lived in a Sears Magnolia with a recent addition.

What fun to imagine Amy driving through the carport and entering the garage and the house addition at the rear. One can follow Amy on the floorplan up the stairs, past Jesse’s room, to her own room on the back of the house with the sleeping porch overlooking the addition. It is easy to picture her in her deep dressing room eavesdropping on her father’s meeting in the addition’s “trophy room.” Poor Amy — looks like she has to share a bathroom with her parents while Jesse has one to himself.


Imagine all the research and planning that went into this small part of a novel! You might enjoy printing the floorplan map to accompany you when you read Masjid Morning.

In what ways is the floorplan essential to the plot of the story? Perhaps only to architects, builders, and other house-savvy people who might be mentally distracted if the layout of the house didn’t fit together!

Our favorite builder says of Masjid Morning, “The book moves effortlessly between technical descriptions of a mosque rising from the ground like a living being and the emotional struggles between religions.” — Jay Endelman

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If your church romanticizes …

“If your church romanticizes the Hondurans they reach out to on short term mission trips, but demonizes the Hondurans seeking asylum in a refugee caravan, it might be time to re-examine what mission is really all about” is going around on Facebook currently.

Some readers of Masjid Morning by Richard Morris questioned whether character Randall, Amy’s father, was realistic enough — that they did not know people like this in their churches and in their lives.

Here is an excerpt:

masjid-coverThat night, when they were getting ready for bed, Eunice told Randall, “Maybe we need to get her away from here—get her mind on other things.”
“What—like to a camp or something?”
“Yes, but I think that would be too short. She needs to be away from this boy for a long time.”
“You think it is a boy, then?” he asked.
“It has to be, the way she’s acting. And I think it’s a Muslim boy.”
“God save us!” he said, pulling his pajama top over his head.
“It’s probably too late for her to become a camp counselor somewhere—camps are probably staffed up.”
“Maybe we could have her volunteer for a work camp,” he suggested, “building houses somewhere.”
“That’s an idea. I think Habitat’s still working along the Gulf Coast and in Haiti.”
He took off his watch and put it on the end table. “But I don’t think we want her around all those black people, do we? That would be asking for trouble. We don’t know what might happen to her in either of those places. Why don’t we ask around at church tomorrow about what mission trips are available and see what she might be interested in.”

Masjid Morning was published in 2016. Was Richard Morris ahead of his time in portraying such Christians? Would a reading of Masjid Morning today bring the response, “Right on target!” “Aptly describes …” Did it just take the reality that we could elect Trump as President and have many Christians continue to support him, to make us start to understand the true character of people we might know, love, or respect?

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