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Dad’s Purple Heart

During World War II, Dad – Simone “Sam” Billuni – was awarded two Purple Heart medals. The first came during the battle on the beaches at Anzio, Italy in 1944. A fierce German counterattack left Sam unconscious from a machine-gun bullet wound to the hip. Left for dead...

Han Gotje – Dutch Resistance Hero (and my cousin)

If you read my novel, Journey to Marseilles, you will be familiar with Rebecca Smit’s family, which includes her first cousin, Martin. These characters were based upon actual people who lived through the hardships and dangers of World War II. But the one...

Book Review: “The Angel Gang” by Ken Kuhlken

If you like your detective stories “hardboiled,” you must read Ken Kuhlken’s The Angel Gang alongside Mickey Spillane’s Mike Hammer tales. I do have to take exception with film historian Stephen Bowie’s description of the Mike Hammer stories as “ . . . the trashiest...

Happy Birthday, Auntie Honey

Gladys Leona Borst Holden was born July 19, 1925 in Chicago, Illinois. When I was a little guy (2 or 3 years old), I couldn’t pronounce “Gladys,” which was my aunt’s name. I heard Mom (Gladys’s sister) calling her “Honey,” so I started calling her Auntie Honey. The...

Book Review: THE NIGHT CIRCUS by Erin Morgenstern

To quote a famous sportscaster: “Oh, my!” This fascinating and delicious novel by Erin Morgenstern is a must-read for all lovers of tales that contain wonderful love stories (it has two!); tales of magic and magicians, circuses and carnivals, miracles and murder. It...

Growing up in El Centro: 1961-63

The summer after our Sophomore year at CUHS was a big one for me. I was chosen to attend a summer Mathematics Program at Oregon State University in Corvallis with 60 students from all over the country. It was quite the experience being away from any family for an...