Michael Crump has lived in rural, Costa Rica with his wife, Janet and dog, Rose, for 11years. Mike is a prolific writer and his published works include short stories which are published in several numbers of the Revista de Las LenguasModernas of UCR. They are available at www.stillpointfiction.com or at www.penmanhouse.com.

El Peon and Other Stories from the Campo was his first book.  He has written three novels about the civil war in Guatemala, Candyman’s WarThe Oligarch and Eleven Days. The latter, is a coming of age story set in the immediate aftermath of that war. He is currently working on another in that series called Tyrone the Flyboy, (A Li Hoffman Novel). In all of these he shows a deep understanding of the horrors of this civil war and empathy with those inflicted on the ordinary peons. He creates well drawn characters to show how families take opposite sides and the heroes and monsters war creates.It is always interesting to understand how life’s experiences influence different writers. Mike was raised in a military household.  “I began to

It is always interesting to understand how life’s experiences influence different writers. Mike was raised in a military household.  “I began to revere the culture of the military at a young age. This, and my own service in the reserve forces helps me to write from that perspective. I never saw combat but many friends and associates have provided me with an inventory of adventures from their wartime experiences. The rest is imagination.”He spent all of his child hood in the southern states. “It’s made me deeply anti-racist.”

He spent all of his child hood in the southern states. “It’s made me deeply anti-racist.”“As a place to write, Costa Rica was initially stimulating because of the differences in culture. I’m getting a little used to that now but I still love sitting on my porch overlooking the valley out to the Gulf of Nicoya. At this

“As a place to write, Costa Rica was initially stimulating because of the differences in culture. I’m getting a little used to that now but I still love sitting on my porch overlooking the valley out to the Gulf of Nicoya. At this point however, I think I could write frommost anywhere.”“Almost all of my early writing is rooted in an intense curiosity about and respect for the cultures of Central America, especially Costa Rica. I have written extensively about the family orientation of isolated rural communities, of the policing culture here, and of folk tales”

“Almost all of my early writing is rooted in an intense curiosity about and respect for the cultures of Central America, especially Costa Rica. I have written extensively about the family orientation of isolated rural communities, of the policing culture here, and of folk tales”Like many writers, Mike reads a lot. Unlike most of us, he really studies the techniques and styles of very many famous and successful writers. You can see the lessons learned from the richness of his prose.

Like many writers, Mike reads a lot. Unlike most of us, he really studies the techniques and styles of very many famous and successful writers. You can see the lessons learned from the richness of his prose.

I met Mike through three different writer’s groups. We both work with the same publisher, Penman House Publishing. He is an enthusiastic participant and always willing to share ideas and helpful criticism with others. “These groups are pivotal for me. They are a place to test ideas and modes of expression and to occasionally, get ideas. They have also provided support during the times my conviction about my writing has flagged. I feel as though I make a contribution to other writers, which is hard to over-value.”

He chose the following excerpt, a scene from his novel-in-progress, Tyrone the Flyboy. It is the second in a series that arose form the story of The Oligarch and the current protagonist’s parents. This scene is near the end, as the story approaches its climax. Mike’s personal experience as a pilot, shines through, as the flyboy is desperate to stop the bad guys escaping. Some of you will recognize the setting as Lake Superior.

* * * * * *

Isle Royale became a smudge on the horizon shortly after he hung up and the boat maintained a course to pass east of it. He was catching up when he guessed they had spotted him and were testing him by slowing  down. He did not want to be in a slow flight situation if they decided to shoot. He banked northeast towards Nipogon but left his flaps down and maintained the same speed. In a few minutes he could barely see them but from their location they must have speeded up again.

“Adverse flight, adverse flight. This is Bell-jet November-One-Zero-Niner-Papa-Papa. We are Mike Sierra Papa, go 123.7. Go 123.7, over.

“Roger, Mike Sierra Papa, 123.7.”

On the new frequency Ty gave the police chopper his location and information on the cigarette boat. They told him that they were still 15 minutes out and the Ontario Provincial’s had been alerted.

“I’ll watch’em to the shoreline,” Ty said.

Ty added power, raised his flaps and began a looping southerly turn to get around behind the boat again. He glanced again at the mounting cumulus, now well into its inexorable trek down-lake, its anvil head pointed directly at him. In ten more minutes he had the boat’s wake again. They had turned westerly behind Isle Royal passing close to Pie Island and headed for a heavily wooded shore. If they see me this time…they’ll know. He slowed again and followed staying in loose formation.

Tyrone spotted their destination before they did. Two files of old pilings jutted out from the shoreline. Probably an abandoned sawmill.  A gangplank of a dock had been added to the stumps of the pilings. He gave the location to the police chopper.

The Comanche turned towards the dock. The boat was just pulling next to it; one small figure had jumped ashore. Ty banked into a wide circle to take in the setting. A barn-like building, nestled in the trees, came into view. A gravel two-track exited the back of it going directly up and over a row of hills. Two, maybe three hundred feet high, Ty guessed. Within a minute he was parallel to the line of pilings and crossing the shoreline. Three men were on the dock watching him. The two-track led directly over the hill forming a long straight line through a blue green expanse of pine and spruce barrens on the other side. The dirt road connected to a paved east-west road about a mile away.

As he passed over the hill he gave another report to Mike Sierra Papa and began a slow circle back to the building. This time an Ontario Provincial said, “I’ve got you visual, Adverse Flight,” on the same frequency.

Only one man was visible on the dock as he passed over.

Several rounds from an automatic weapon slammed into the Comanche’s nose nacelle and left engine cowling.

His left prop rpms bucked from stop to stop, prop oil! He shut the engine down and increased power settings on the right engine. He jammed the rudder pedal as his right hand began trim it to straighten the nose out. More rounds pounded into the fuselage behind him.

A flickering pulled at the corner of his eye. The dead engine propeller spun freely in the sunlight. The rounds that cut the oil line had severed the feathering spring. He had both hands on the yoke. With full trim and full rudder he could barely straighten the nose.The airplane would fly on one engine but a free spinning prop was like pushing a plate flat against the wind. No go, he thought, not for long anyway. Asymmetric thrust had put him into a turn. Distraction had cost him 200 feet of altitude and now another burst of automatic weapon fire shattered the instrument panel and nearly severed the thumb from his right hand.

Time lurched to a crawl.

His left hand and feet knew what to do and they kept doing it.  But Tyrone stared at the mangled thumb. The crooked one he had flown with, immobilized, during Tet.

The words came to him through his ears:

“So…the fisherman gets his revenge.”

They came slowly, as though God really wanted him to appreciate the symmetry in his life. Ty’s brain filled with the swelling, pulsating sautillé of cellos whiting out the noise and the melee roiling his mind. Not Bach this time. His focus sharpened as it had during Tet. Lightning lashed out over the lake. Instinctively he began to count: One thousand one, one thousand two…. He got all the way to ten before the deep rumble. Two miles out, he thought. It was then that Tyrone received God’s message.

Shooter gone and airplane dying fast. Ty sized up the rising lake chop; the wind had begun to blow the tops off waves. If he dropped the Comanche, gear up into shallow water, the low wing would catch one of those waves and cartwheel him upside down. So, he thought, that’s the job. He relaxed into the Comanche’s last wishes to yaw and roll and began an orbit back towards the hill. Rudder full over and one wing down, the severe cross-control slipped the plane into faster altitude loss.

A black SUV slung gravel as it fishtailed up the two-track. They can’t see me at this angle. He checked the dirt track on the other side of the hill. Emergency vehicle lights flashed on the paved road a mile away. Tyrone re-checked his power and using the blade of his mangled right hand he hacked at the lever until the flaps were half down. Marvelous, no pain.

Descending over the crest of the hill, he rolled into a 180-degree turn to line up with the two track. The SUV bounded over the crest at his elevation. They see me now, he thought. But they did not. And when they did they were going downhill too fast to stop quickly. The SUV skidded in loose gravel, shuddering sideways as though preparing to dart into the trees. His mangled hand hacked flaps full down dropping the nose of the Comanche directly at the car.

A little high, was Tyrone’s last complete thought. Power, full off. Landing gear, down. One man scrambled out of the car just in time to lock eyes with the rider of divine wind.

 


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Chris Clarke
Chris Clarke writes thrillers under the name Aaron Aalborg and has retired to Costa Rica from New York and bought a house here 6 years ago. His career included international banking. He has degrees in economics and management. In earlier lives he was a Catholic trainee monk; a radical student activist, a Royal Marine Commando, a businessman, a partner in a consulting firm, a professor at a UK business school, an Investment banker and the CEO of a global executive search firm. He has lived in Europe, Asia, New York and Latin America.