Tag Archives: cia

Hang A Crooked Number: Now Worth Nothing

Today marks the start of another Mets season. To celebrate the occasion, for a limited time you can join another lost cause at minimal cost. Which is to say, no cost. From March 31 through April 4, Hang A Crooked Number is on sale at Amazon for the considerable markdown of 100 percent. If I’ve done my math right, that means it’s free. As in, zero dollars. And zero cents.

If you’ve missed/ignored my many posts about this novel since it came out last year, this is Hang A Crooked Number in a nutshell:

Backstop lives a double life, and both are crumbling. He is a minor league catcher and an operative in training for The Moe Berg Society, a secret intelligence group that uses baseball as a front for its spy work. The mysterious disappearance of Backstop’s fellow trainee, Mark, has plunged him into a career-threatening slump. He gets one last chance at redemption when his handler asks him to investigate a connection between rumors of a mole and The Scouts, a faction of old-school spies hell-bent on seizing leadership of The Society. Backstop’s mission is complicated by his new roommate, The Swing, an aging slugger working on a major league comeback, and by Brooke, a tenacious reporter who suspects Backstop holds the key to her investigation into Mark’s disappearance. With one eye on his plummeting batting average and the other on the mounting casualties of his mission, Backstop attempts to unravel a conspiracy that could change the game forever before he unravels himself.

I know many people believe that spending money for anything on the internet is an affront to their human rights. Such folks contend that their function as consumers is so important that it is above such piddling concerns as paying people who make the things they consume. Under normal circumstances, I’m not inclined to encourage such beliefs. But I would also like people to know that Hang  A Crooked Number exists, and one way to do that is to give it out for free. There are other ways to do this, but they involve the spending of money that my family insists is better spent on shoes and rent. So, free it is.

I recognize that people who don’t want to pay for things on the internet also don’t like it when they’re asked to do anything on the internet. (I’m not sure what these people do like to do, other than scream that video games are art and tell other people to die in fires on Twitter.) However, if you choose to download this book that I worked on for years and you find you enjoy it, I ask that you at least consider giving the book a few stars on its Amazon page. And if you’re feeling really generous, maybe leave a nice review. Stars and reviews mean a lot to Amazon, so the more you leave, the more often my book comes up in searches for other books and hammocks and whatever the hell else Amazon sells. Damned if I can figure it out, but Bezos works in mysterious ways his wonders to perform.


Santiago, 1997

I will be in Chile. Dad will also be in Chile.

I will be in Chile because the scholarship allowing me to attend NYU carries with it membership to a scholar’s group that takes international trips over the winter break. Said trips involve sightseeing, community service, and a modicum of free time to do whatever it is college students do while abroad. I don’t know what that is, exactly. I can barely relax back home, let alone in a strange country thousands of miles away.

Why will Dad will be in Chile? I’m not sure. He is a “systems analyst” now. That’s what it says on his business cards. He has many different ones, and it seems each one is from a different company—NASDAQ, USAID, and a dozen other obscure outfits—with its own variation on his name. Eugene Callan. Gene Callan. Eugene A. Callan. Gene M. Callan…

Whatever his work is, it takes him across the globe. He spends a good chunk of my high school years in either Russia (right around coup time) or Hong Kong (right before it was given back to China). He’s also done time in many former Soviet republics in central Asia (The Icky-Stans, he calls them), Indonesia, India, Pakistan, and South America. He does not explain to me what he does in these countries, and I don’t ask. It’s not because I am uninterested. It’s because I don’t expect a straight answer.

Continue reading Santiago, 1997

Hang A Crooked Number: Available Now

Cover art by Tony Morais

I wrote a novel called Hang A Crooked Number. It is about a world where baseball is an elaborate front for the operations of a domestic intelligence organization called The Moe Berg Society. It is narrated by a minor league recruit who is mired in a horrific slump on both sides of his work, unable to work his way to the big leagues as either a hitter or a spy, while being caught between rival factions fighting for control of the organization. It’s about some other things, too, but we’ll start there. And it has serious parts and funny parts (parts I intended to be serious and funny, anyway). I’m letting you know about this because I think some people might like it.

As this novel made its final steps to becoming a Real Live Book, my first impulse was to write a huge post detailing its journey from idea to reality, why I took so long to write it, commentary on those Other Things alluded to above, the evolution of my thoughts about fiction in particular and writing in general…

I wrote this very lengthy post, more to remind myself of the journey this novel took from the time when the idea first came to me. Then I crumpled up that post and tossed in the trash, because it would be of no interest to anyone outside of my head. Maybe you’d care about how long it took me to write this novel or what I went through in the intervening years if I was Some Important Author, but I ain’t. Last time I checked, I was known (if at all) as a semi-pro enthusiast of Edgardo Alfonzo, Action Park, and Steampipe Alley. You are well within your rights to not give a shit about my “process.”

Furthermore, I shouldn’t attempt to explain a piece of work whose primary function is to explain itself. I’m reminded of something Elvis Costello once said during a live show: “People are always asking me, ‘What does that song mean?’ If I could have said it in a way other than how I said it in the song, I would have written another song, wouldn’t I?”

So, though brevity is not my strong suit, I will keep this as short and sweet as I can:

Hang A Crooked Number is now out in the world, available to eyes that might enjoy a novel about baseball and spies and some other things. If you believe you own such a set of eyes, it can be purchased at Amazon, iTunes, or Smashwords for the ridiculously low price of $2.99. (Other retailers to follow.) I figure that’s plenty cheap for anyone to take a chance on a novel about spies and baseball written by Some Dude. If you are fortunate enough to own an ebook reading device yet consider $2.99 too much to spend on an ebook, all I can say is good luck to you, sir or madam.

If you do take a chance on this novel and find you like what you read, leave a nice review on Amazon and tell a friend. Leave something nice up on Goodreads, if that’s a thing you do. Tweet or Facebook about it. Every little whisper helps. I’m just one person without any sort of machine working for me, so this is how more eyes will get a chance to read it. That is all I want and all I can want.

Thank you.

Christmas Carol Commentary Tracks: Santa Claus Is Coming to Town

Did you know you know that record labels used to release special commentary tracks to play along with 45s, much like the ones available on your modern DVDs? It’s true! This holiday season, Scratchbomb has transcribed some Yuletide examples of this bygone format and presents them to you now for your reading pleasure. Today, the commentary track for “Santa Claus Is Coming to Town.”

HAROLD STERLING, CIA STATION CHIEF: In 1951, I was tapped to head the MK-KLAUS program. This program was coded at security level 4-7A, which meant that if President Truman had even asked me about it, I was authorized to shoot him.

The main purpose of the project was to construct a Christmas song that could combat the insidious communistic influence found in holiday fare like “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer.” Several top songwriters were conscripted into the Agency, given high level security clearances, and instructed to produce a Christmas carol that could subliminally combat Soviet propaganda. This wasn’t the first time we’d done something like this. During World War II, the OSS parachuted Cole Porter behind enemy lines, where he was instructed to charm the Nazis into surrender with his sophisticated songsmithery.

We took the songwriters and holed them up in a bunker several miles below an undisclosed location in the New Mexico desert. Several days in, however, it became apparent that they were not accustomed to working in such an austere environment. So we relocated them to a New York studio, armed with an upright piano and a stockpile of gin and Lucky Strikes. Cyanide pills were distributed in case the boys at the shoeshine stand got too nosy.

The songwriters grew much more productive here, but several had to be dismissed when it was discovered they’d ignored the purpose of the project and written the complete score to “The King and I” instead. In early October, a suitable song was finally produced. The song speaks of a tyrannical, omnipresent man in red who knows what you are doing at all times, even when you are sleeping, and warns you to watch out for his arrival.

The song was piped through the vents of unsuspecting department stores to gauge an organic response from the general populace. The results were astonishing–shoppers breaking out into spontaneous fits of whistling, foot tapping, and general Yuletide merriment. This experiment led us to release it into the holiday environment as an airborne contaminant, where it remains to this day.

The song was later used as a trigger device for a highly trained assassin, who was hypnotized into such a state where he was not aware of his own abilities, but would become “activated” again once he heard the song. The plan backfired while he was on assignment in Guatemala and heard a local folk tune that resembled the trigger song, then mistakenly sniped the enormous stone figures at a Mayan temple.

MK-KLAUS was slowly phased out after that unfortunate incident, though some of its principle figures were later assembled to compose a Cuban jazz riff that could make Castro’s beard fall out.