Wednesday, May 29, 2013



In the late 1980’s I was on a long sea voyage into the South Pacific. I moored my boat for over three months in Guam to avoid being out in the open ocean during typhoon season. I had lived on Guam back in the early 1960’s and received most of my University education at the College of Guam.(back then it was an affiliate of Ohio State University)  I passed through the island several times transiting to and from Vietnam and the Philippines a few years later. 
When I arrived in the late 1980’s the sleepy little island I had experienced in 1960-1963 was no longer. It had been invaded by the Japanese. (again!)  In twenty-five years, the Japanese had recaptured the island by purchasing the beachfront real estate and building high-rise hotels and resorts.
I was appalled at first and then humored after I looked more closely. The Guamanian culture had changed drastically. What was once a laid-back Polynesian lifestyle was only evident in some of the villages in the countryside and a long way away from the hub of Agana.  Many of the land owners had become millionaires.  Their huts near the beaches were selling at downtown New York prices. Everyone had jumped on the ‘tourist’ bandwagon.
The tourists were predictably humorous, too. Since Guam was the closest tropical “foreign island” to Japan, the younger generations flocked to the US possession by the thousands.  On any given week-day the tourist population from Japan usually numbered almost four thousand people.   The guys wanted to shoot guns, eat steak and partake of the ‘pay-as-you-go-lust’.   Massage parlors were located on every corner and in most strip malls near Tumon Bay.
The young Japanese women wanted to shop, spend time on the beaches, and sample the men; any men except the Japanese men.  It’s true.  I’ve never seen so many horny tourists in my entire life.
My eighteen year old son, who normally repelled women like a puddle of fresh puke, was able to get laid more than once.  Of course he fell love right off and whined like a puppy when his Japanese squeeze climbed on a plane and flew back to her boyfriend and job in Tokyo.  It took him a month to ‘get it’ and by then I was ready to continue our voyage. Mother Nature interrupted my plans; the late arrival of a typhoon that came close to our route south; so I waited another 30 days to get shed of Guam. 
I finished the outline and began the novel, THE LAST FRUIT STAND ON GUAM, while waiting for my son to play out his libido string with the Japanese chicks. As it turned out this sexual anomaly was the only opportunity my boy had at ‘swinging’. He returned to being the ‘puddle of puke’.
Skid, the beach bum entrepreneur, was concentrating on the piece of work walking toward him.
Blondie marched instead of walked. She was tall and willowy with a dark gold tan. Her hourglass figure was exquisite. Any Hollywood starlet would kill for her natural look. Dressed in denim cut-offs, a bikini top, and one of her cheap, straw cowboy hats, she resembled Daisy Mae of cartoon fame. Swinging her arms like a Nazi soldier, other beach walkers gave her a wide berth, to avoid being struck by the huge straw handbag swinging to and fro. Blondie’s bag was famous on the beach. Normal girlie stuff; underclothing, sandals, makeup, perfume, comb, hairbrush, toothbrush, lotions, were not unusual. But the bag also contained horseshoes, pliers, a hoof knife, cans of beer, liniment, and a hammer.
Being bonked by her bag could be fatal.
Blondie’s face showed her age. Creased with fine worry lines any makeup base would hide, she looked every day of her thirty years in her natural state with the afternoon’s good light. Wide-set blue eyes seemed always to be smiling when she was in fair moods. When agitated or aroused, they turned steely gray – cold. A wide mouth and full lips were accentuated by light dimples; suggesting she was about to grin. Blondie’s actual smile was broad and beautiful. Straight, white teeth went almost unnoticed as her dimples deepened and eyes flashed.  A high brow, straight nose, and strong chin laid claim to her Baltic heritage.  Skid suspected she’d added some bounce to the topside. They were just too firm and perky, but he never let on he knew. It was one of those observations best kept to himself.
Skid considered the owner of the Craven Horse Ranch strikingly beautiful. Entering the fruit stand, she was a perfect sight, in spite of the large hickey on her neck. Almost every guy he knew wanted to get in Blondie’s knickers. Especially Watanabee. Skid was one of the chosen few. Blondie and he had sampled one another on and off for the better part of three years, neither willing to commit for more than a few days and nights
“Who’s been gnawing on you?” Skid asked unabashedly.
Blondie touched her neckline and blushed, suddenly self-conscious of the black and blue bruise. “Rabid Richard, who else?” she replied, referring to her Marine sergeant boyfriend.
When I’d lived on the island in the early 60’s, I survived one of the island’s worst typhoons in history.  In the fall of 1962, typhoon Karen devastated the island.  There was considerable loss of life, the entire infrastructure was down for months, and many people went crazy. 
One had to be ‘off’ a bit just to survive the small island’s quirks.  Sane people were soon sent over the bank.  Being confined to a piece of dirt only thirty miles long and six miles wide at the widest part made for interesting character adjustments.
I have to admit when I first arrived on Guam, I was spooked with the knowing I was trapped on a small island.  I borrowed my dad’s car and circumvented the island.  I made one lap in less time than it took me to pass security at the Naval base. It gave me the heebe jeebies. I didn’t go ding-bat crazy but the knowledge of how small the land mass was -- gave me pause and certain claustrophobic tendencies.  I immediately enrolled in the University, got involved in scuba diving and created a salvage business.  Those activities plus the exotic women – diversions – probably kept me somewhat sane.
The people I witnessed coming to the island in the late 1980’s were suffering the same malady or worse; instant insanity.  This mental condition, referred to as Island Fever, is prevalent in many Hawaiian and Alaskan communities as well.  On Guam, however it reaches epic proportions when it’s coupled with a natural disaster; like a typhoon or a tsunami.  I know -- I experienced it! (Sustaining winds of 180 knots with gusts to 250 knots) I witnessed firsthand how some people react when faced with the possibility of imminent death. I didn’t like what I saw for the most part.  People I had held in high esteem acted cowardly and petty when the danger was near. (They also soiled themselves)  Other’s who didn’t seem the type, rose to the challenges at hand and ‘glared back at the face of death’.  I was fortunate to be included in the second category.  
I started outlining and writing THE LAST FRUIT STAND ON GUAM while on the island and during our journey.  I had to set the manuscript aside on and off and finally finished the first draft two years later while commercial fishing in Alaska. It’s a big book – 102,000 words; pared down from the original 160,000. It’s racy, bawdy, irreverent, and laced with dark humor.  A lot happens during the few weeks chronicled by the novel. I hope you enjoy THE LAST FRUIT STAND ON GUAM. This reader did:
Literature is like a rope entwined with different shades of twine and it takes some skill to weave the genres into one solid length strong enough to carry the reader through more than 100,000 words. With elements of a disaster movie, a thriller, a character piece, some love scenes that walk the highwire between the erotic and outright bawdy, Robert Hatting in “Last Fruit Stand on Guam” tied me to the page and dragged me hurtling through his face-paced narrative.
I have never been to Guam, but if it is now on my TBV – to be visited list. He creates a cast of eccentric characters, puts them in dark situations and we gasp with amazement as they wriggle their way through them. Comedy scenes alone would not sustain the plot, but Hatting provides enough intrigues and cliff-hangers to keep you glued in what is finally a compelling and very entertaining read.


Tuesday, May 28, 2013


Kelly wrote this article for one of the local newspapers.  I happen to know that very few citizens of the expatriate world ever read that periodical so I offered to post it on my blog so everyone in the world could learn from her experiences.
Kelly comes from Wisconsin and has been living in Panama for nearly four years. She first came to Panama as an exchange student, fell in love with the country and just couldn't stay away.  Lately she has been living her dream, enjoying life in David and teaching English classes at an English Club she operates.  
Supermarket Scavenger Hunt
What food item do you miss most from your home country? All of us foreigners living far away from our native lands have those occasional cravings for good ol’ comfort food every now and again; even if we have become accustomed to the local cuisine. The reality is ‘there’s no place like home’ and sometimes it is nice to make a home cooked meal to remind us of our native country. Yet, often we are faced with difficulties in finding those coveted foreign ingredients to make that favorite recipe.
    The supermarkets in David do provide a wide array of foreign foods, but let’s face it, the selection is quite limited. Or worse still, we finally find that specialty food item we have been craving, but when we return to purchase it again, it is missing without a trace.  Not even an empty space on the shelf, like it was never even there. 
If you are like me, you tend to see those rare items when you are least expecting it and are in such a hurry that you don’t purchase it. Instead you opt to make a mental note for the next time you need it so you will remember which supermarket you found it in; only to return and find that it is no longer there and no one has any idea of what you are looking for.  It is a frustrating situation to find yourself in.  Do you:
A. Yell at the supermarket manager for neglecting to reorder the item?
B. Question why you are living in a foreign country?      or
C. Invent a fun supermarket scavenger hunt?
I have decided to go with option C (only after exhausting the first two options without receiving adequate results).  Why not turn a sometimes frustrating situation into a fun game that you can play every time you go shopping?  How to play: think of several food items you haven’t been able to find and look for them on your next trip to the grocery store. (Keep in mind you may need to make several trip to various stores, but don’t give up.) How to win: Find the item and reap the benefits of finding your coveted foreign food. Don’t forget to stock up because you don’t know if it will be there the next time you return.
It is a great game that everyone can play and helps take away from the frustration of not finding important food items. Try it out next time and maybe you will get lucky. Oh and if you happen to see some horseradish spread, please let me know so I can check it off my list.


Monday, May 27, 2013

MENTORS – We all have them!

As a rule I’m not a name dropper.  The subject of mentors requires me to be one.  Over the years, other than my formal education in Journalism, no one ever taught me to write a novel.  I learned on my own by purchasing books on the subject, trial and error, and of course mirroring my mentors.

 Some of my mentors were in the flesh. Alive and willing to help me; face to face. Edward Abbey (the Monkey Wrench Gang), John Nichols (the Milagro Beanfield War), Werner Egli (BLUES FOR LILLY,DELGADO, plus 60 more), Jack Schaeffer (Shane & Monte Walsh), Tom Robbins (Another Roadside Attraction), and Michael Blake (Dances With Wolves, Indian Yell).

Some like Wallace Stenger, Louis L’amour, Larry McMurtry, Morris West, and Carl Haasen; authors who were alive during my early career influenced me greatly.

Other mentors had passed before my time; Jack London, Ernest Hemmingway, John Steinbeck, and Samuel Clemmons (Mark Twain). 

Will Rogers also played a significant role in my development as a writer and a human being.  His primary advice -- don’t take life too seriously, (an echo of my dad’s voice) has proved to be the most valuable advice of all – for life!

Of all the writers I’ve met or known, I believe Ed Abbey influenced me the most.  (Monkey Wrench Gang – Desert Solitaire and a ton of others)


We spent a lot of time together when I was in southern Arizona.  We were on opposite poles on just about every subject.  When we met, I was a rancher – he hated ranchers.  I was a businessman – he wasn’t fond of them either. I disliked tree-huggers – he was the inspiration behind EARTH FIRST. But we both wrote novels.  Ed was at the top of his game; I was just beginning.

One day Ed and I were having a few drinks in a bar in Tucson.  We were arguing politics. Eventually I was able to segue to writing.  OIL SPILL had been published and was failing miserably.  I had just finished my first draft of PARTNERS.

 Here’s part of our conversation.  I placed his sage advice in ALL CAPS.

“In your opinion, Ed, what is the lowest common denominator to writing a successful novel? What’s your ‘ONE SENTENCE’ advice for someone like me?”

He laughed and sipped the last of his beer.  “Stay with your cows and horses.  Writing is a dirty life; fulfilling but dirty!”

 “It’s always been my dream,” I replied. “To live anyplace in the world and make a living; to be independent and to make a difference…”

“Hatting, you’re a fool. A likable fool, yet still a fool.  Here’s what I suggest.  You can either enroll in my creative writing class at the U of A or buy the house a round to learn the answer -- your choice.”

I looked around the ratty bar.  It was only the two of us.  “Ed, we’re the only ones in here. I’ll buy a round -- in fact let me pay the whole tab; including lunch.”

That $27.00 bar tab was the cheapest and most valuable advice I’d ever received about writing.


I took that advice and began reading my manuscripts out loud.  Recently I went back and looked at my two big novels, THE LAST FRUIT STAND ON GUAM and ALASKA BE DAMNED. The contrast in the writing is as separate as the lives I was leading during the rewrites.  It shows in my work.  That’s when you have to adhere to your voice.  Not the original manuscript…the rewrites! 

THE LAST FRUIT STAND ON GUAM was written and polished while I was working in Alaska as a commercial fisherman.  It reflects the bawdy, blue collar prose that was prevalent in my chosen adventure.

Skid McMasters spoke three words of Japanese; Ohayo, konnichiwa, and ichiban. Serving a dozen or more young Japanese women, one might expect a vendor who did daily business with Japanese tourists to expand his Nipponese vocabulary, but Skid couldn't care less. He said good morning (Ohayo), or good afternoon (konnichiwa), pointed to the second most attractive woman in a group (single Japanese women on holiday always traveled in groups) and indicated she was Number One (ichiban), a vanity fib deliberately planned to provoke jealousy within the group.

On average, at least two room keys were discretely left amongst the papaya, breadfruit, mangoes, rose apples, bananas, sugar cane, guavas, oranges, limes, lemons, coconuts, plantain, and avocados. One room key from his designated ichiban, and another from the most desirable; the real number one. Predictably, four sales were made to each group, with a sizable tip imparted by the most attractive woman. From mid-morning until late afternoon, Skid waited on sixty to eighty groups, bagging their fruit, taking their money, and saving their keys; a daily routine for Skid. Although McMasters didn’t completely comprehend this carnal anomaly, he accepted the Asian ladies’ affections without hesitation. Three years of this daily drill spoke volumes about his sexual stamina; the overactive libido that had caused him untold problems over the years was a veritable asset on this small Central Pacific Island, called Guam.

ALASKA BE DAMNED was started in Alaska, the first draft was completed while building my cabin in Northern Arizona, and polished after I moved to Seattle and started a business.  It’s obvious my city-business nomenclature crept into the manuscript.

From our vista, we witnessed the havoc being wreaked by Mother Nature. Trees and shrubs were permanently bent or uprooted. High on the beach, a number of seals and sea lions had sought shelter from the fierce environment. As predicted, the wind was blowing directly out of the north, accelerating with each prolonged gust. It occurred to me how irrelevant our typical daily problems appear when compared with these kinds of immutable forces. Will the stock market remain bullish? Will we ever see three dollar a pound Kings again? Should we paint the house to please our neighbors? Do these shoes go well with this dress? Should I call the Coasties?

Meg took my arm and leaned against me. It was difficult to breathe, let alone talk. We turned and looked west toward where the Intrepid had ceased to be a boat. Chatham Strait was breathtaking. Developing some synch, the waves were compounding, with one wave breaking over another breaking wave, reaching heights of up to sixty feet.

The author is the same, the stories are original, but the polished product is different. Since I’ve been writing back-stories on all of my work for this blog, I've become aware of the significant differences in all twelve of my novels and six screenplays. It seems like eighteen authors penned my work.  Thanks, Ed. 

Over the next several months I will reflect on how all my other mentors have fashioned my writing; novels and screenplays. 

Saturday, May 25, 2013



Today, Blair-Pacific Publishing will feature a guest post. 

Cliff Strait is a political analyst who lives in San Jose, Costa Rica.  He’s been an Ex-Pat for about a decade. He keeps his thumb on the pulse on Central America happenings and is very familiar with Panama because he’s in the process of converting his residency status to move to our fair country.



Those who move to Costa Rica must have more money than brains. They are the ones who have failed to do their due-diligence, as I did.  Unfortunately we are at least 10 years too late to enjoy the best years Costa Rica had to offer.

Costa Rica is a beautiful country with an abundance of tourist attractions and activities, but a place to live and work, is all together something else.

For those mega US companies who set up shop here, this is all together another ball game.  These companies can negotiate lucrative tax incentives, which leaves the under paid employees paying the taxes, rather than them.  They are also able to get away with cut cutting measures they are not able to get away with back home.

There are a lot of misleading articles out on the internet these days,  in particular by blogers who primarily make their money off having, relocation conferences, of which they charge a pretty penny for.  Some times they are even tied in with the developers as well.  Then there are the websites put up by developers, real estate agents or scavengers as I like to refer to them as, to bilk you out of your hard earned money.

Most Gringos loose most of their principle they invested in their homes on the resale, because most over pay.  The problem is twofold, there is no multiple listing service, many homes are in corporations, so it is easy to hide the true value for tax purposes, but difficult at best for an unsuspecting buyer to figure out market values.  Then there are the unscrupulous real estate agents who take a listing and add tens of thousands of dollars, if not hundreds of thousands on to the sales price which already includes the commission.  Last but not least, is the issue of getting a clear title, because there are not any real title companies here as we know them to be in North America.

Another difference that stood out for me, since I am from the Southwestern part of the United States is, most homes are built, lot line to lot line, in a country that has a lot of cheap land in comparison to the United States and Canada. You rarely see a city home lot which is approximately 10, 000 square feet here in Costa Rica.

There may be some method to the madness or rhyme or reason to this, it could be for security reasons. It reduces the number of ways to break into a property; in most cases, just from the front, or the back.

Standard of living is an issue for most North Americans. Costa Rica is filthy place for starters. All you have to do is open your eyes to the trash in the rivers and along the sides of many of their waterfalls, in vacant lots, and along the sides of the roads. 

Dogs tear into the trash waiting to be picked up because there is no such thing as leash laws, dog catcher, or dog ponds. There is little pride of ownership of their national treasures or for their own country.

One of many stark differences for me, as well as for many Ticos who have lived and worked outside of their home country most of their lives is, all the steel bars over the doors and windows.  This alone should be an eye opening tale tale sign of how unsafe a country is.  One Tico who had retired from working and living in the United States put it best.  He and his wife had the same North American dream of retiring in Costa Rica to live like kings and queens.  While in his medical clinic, he stated, "I feel like I am a prisoner in my own country.  I have to have my home and my business barred up, I can't go home at the end of the day and put on my running clothes and go for a run without feeling unsafe."

You hear about the mosquitoes, malaria, and dengue, but yet they have a built in system to create standing water.  Next time you are in a residential neighborhood, note the 4 inch white PVC coming from the home to the street.  This can be water coming from the sinks in the home or from their showers.  This water can stand in the gutters for the mosquitoes to lay their eggs.  This is the same water that ends up in the near by rivers.  Yes, all the rivers end up dumping into the ocean.  This is happening because they do not want to have to pay to pump water from their septic tanks.

Then there are the poor roads, sidewalks, utilities that do not work consistently.

If you get into a car accident, don’t expect any resolution for at least 6 to 9 years, not months. This holds true for almost any type of court action. If you have any property, it will be in the system for that time frame as well. This means you can’t sell or rent it.

If you get private health insurance, expect INS to reject coverage based on pre-existing conditions.  Oh, you have to pay the bill out of your pockets first, then they decide what they will cover or NOT. 

If it is car insurance, expect INS the government insurance company to use claims as a profit center by rejecting claims based on the poor conditions of the roads, or because of the many speed bumps the government installs here in Costa Rica. Get ready for this, if the car accident is your fault and anyone gets hurt to the point of being  incapacitated for more than 5 days, it becomes a felony case, and you could end up in jail for several years.  This is after you have been paying premiums.  All because your insurance company refused to pay.

The cost of living is the highest in all of Central America, as well as in the United States. The reason is because the government uses import duties as a means of taxation, rather than using duties to protect domestic industries. Plus, Costa Rica is a consuming nation, not a producing nation, so virtually everything is imported.  My understanding is, most imported items pay approximately 40% import duty, then when the consumer goes to purchase the item, they pay an additional 13% more.

Yes, the locals are use to dealing with Gringos, it is called “Gringo Bingo”, this means there is a price for them and a higher price for the Gringos. This is regardless of how well you speak Spanish. If they can tell when a person is from another Spanish speaking country, they definitely know you are not from around here. They get the same treatment as the Gringos.

When my kids came here and saw the schools, it was an automatic rejection. Heck, they do not even have toilet paper, much less paper towels for the kids. The best of schools in Costa Rica look like dumps compared to any of the schools in Arizona.

Sports programs in the school system are a joke. If the schools can't afford toilet paper and paper towels, they surely can't afford sports equipment. If they can't afford these small things, what makes you think they have the money to hire good qualified teachers?  On top of that, the schools have more reasons to be closed than open. This makes it difficult at best to plan your own days, weeks or months. Plus, private schools are not cheap in Costa Rica, you may as well pay the property tax back home, at least you get something for your money.

The Ticos may be happy living under their tin roofs, barred up windows like in a prison, rat and roach infested homes, with sidewalks covered in dog feces. I don’t think the Gringos I know would consider this increasing their quality of life. This is why there is a mass exodus to Panama, Colombia, and other countries, including Europe, even as cold as it is.

Then there are issues like seafood, fish and chicken sitting out in the wide open in Walmart without a sneeze guard. This would not be allowed by any state health department.  This does not address the dumping of rejected products, seconds, slightly damaged or flawed products being sold in trusted stores like name brand stores consumers trust.  Most American brands do not honor warrantees outside the US and Canada.  All of this goes to show how far corporate greed will go if unchecked.

We North Americans take for granted, how the health departments protect us from unseen heath issues such as not allowing restaurants to cook our food in aluminum pots and pans because of the association to Alzheimer’s. Not the case in Costa Rica.

This is why those of us Gringos who have lived here for any length of time, will advise anyone considering moving to any other country, to rent for at least a year before purchasing.

There is a lot of miss-leading if not downright false information being disseminated, mostly for ulterior motives. Beware of the wolves in sheep’s clothing.

Cliff Strait

Thursday, May 23, 2013


All the hats are in the ring, all the newspapers and television stations have taken sides, and now us poor smucks of Panama have no idea what is true or false. Spin doctors warp every piece of news to be someone’s fault. 

  • The energy crisis caused by THE DROUGHT --a late wet season has to be the fault of the current administration.

  • The poor garbage collection has to be the fault of the previous mayor of Panama City.

  • The new transportation system snafu has to be the fault of the former vice president.

It goes on and on… ad-naseaum until  mid 2014.  Candidates for most positions in Panama are beginning to become reactionary to every event that makes the news.  Sometimes they are the news. 

I’m really not complaining.  Just stating a few facts in my whine mode.  Panama is a democratic republic.  Therefore the political system is just as corny and corrupt as the USA. But, it’s still a free election with voters, ballots and a degree of privacy.

Panama wasn’t always a true democracy.  Perhaps it still has its flaws but since becoming sovereign (detached) from the USA (since 2000 when the Canal Zone was officially turned back) Panama has enjoyed violence free elections  and representation of the will of the voters. 

In recent times, since the overthrow and arrest of General Noriega, No single party has REPEATED.  Let me explain.  Although there are several political parties, one would think that a NO REPEAT would be a good thing.  After a fashion, it is.  However, there is no consistent civil service program established in Panama.  When a new party takes control, they make a clean sweep; all government employees are subject to losing their jobs and could be replaced by the highly unqualified second cousin of the wife of the mayor’s son whose is illegitimate but still controls the power in a particular district. This is how it seems to work everywhere in Latin America.  Because of this archaic system, the inefficiencies of government and business are mind blowing to foreigners.

   Attempting to get your drivers license renewed after an election is a week-long job because the agent was recently assigned and he/she has no clue of how to do the work and no one in the office seems to know either.  Usually the purge goes right down to the janitor!  
 For North Americans and Europeans, this is extremely frustrating because we’re accustomed to a civil service program that doesn’t change at every election. Panamanians seem to take it in stride.  Perhaps if one of the three major political parties could REPEAT without a political coalition, it would take steps to create and reinforce a civil service program to be exempt from the constantly shifting political winds. This is strictly wishful thinking on my part.  Getting elected in Panama is exactly like getting elected in the USA or anywhere else.  The candidate who wins will probably be the one who can offer the most free stuff to the voters; money, power, or position. (Perhaps a job issuing drivers licenses?)

I have a good friend who lives in San Jose, Costa Rica who is a political analyst.  Cliff keeps his eye on all manners of events; especially politics in Central and South America.  His audience is the Ex-Patriot community.  I’m confident as we move closer to the Panama elections I can entice him to present his views on my blog. Since most EXPATS are not allowed to vote in their host countries, we need to be aware of what is happening around us.  That’s what Cliff brings to the table; an UNBIASED commentary about issues that may affect our offshore lives. (btw, the photo above is my kid brother, Bill.  The photo was taken at Ft San Lorenzo in 1956 by our dad, Wayne Hatting)

Tuesday, May 21, 2013


Perhaps my attitude about book-covers is naive and borders on stupidity.  I know it costs me book sales because the 12 novel covers don’t provide the SHOCK AND AWE necessary to lure a prospective reader into the bowels of the book.  In other words I don’t have a HOOK for the BOOK.
Most of my covers are photos that have some significant meaning to me.  Not to the reader or anyone else -- just me. 

The Black Fin Sport fishing boat on the cover of MURDER IN PANAMA, has a history.  I had it listed for sale during the time I was brokering boats here in Panama.  The owner is a good friend.  I was in a ponga taking photos of all his boats for sale while visiting a sport fishing lodge.  There is a sportfisher boat in the novel that plays a significant role. 

The lonesome beach on the cover of EX PAT has a history, too.  That photo was taken by me at Playa Zancudo in Costa Rica.  I shared a great day with a wonderful person; it is a delightful beach and depicts the peace I experience living in Central America.

The cover of ALASKA BE DAMNED was taken by my father 60 years ago.  Although it was taken in Panama in 1956, the ‘ship gone aground’ defines that novel. It’s my best seller; perhaps because of the cover?

The cover for THE LAST FRUIT STAND ON GUAM was also taken by my father.  It shows Tumon Bay without any buildings. (Now, it’s hotel after hotel along that beautiful white sand beach)  This photo I converted to Black and white because the original color had bleached out of the 35 mm slide. It’s not a great photo and a lousy cover for a book that contains so much bawdy humor and drama. But, it depicts how the world has changed.

The covers for PARTNERS, BOOMER, CRYSTAL COWBOY and UNTAMED are photos of paintings by artist, Bill Moomey. Most of those paintings sold for between twelve and fifteen thousand dollars each.  How cool is that?


REVOLUTION OF FOOLS has a second choice cover.  It’s of a beach in Puerto Armuelles, Panama.  I took the photo one evening – not a soul in sight.  I had to use that cover to satisfy Amazon.  They wouldn’t allow the original I chose; Gillard Cut by my dad.

The cover for HART RULES is by permission of my friend and talented photographer, Ed Wheeler. His cinematography and B&W photography is top shelf.  I appreciate his talent and the opportunity to use his photograph on the cover of my novel.

Most of the recent covers were created using the photos I took.

 THE JIMMY HART TRILOGY cover is a bamboo hut with a thatched roof that serves as a home for a family working on a farm here in Chiriquí province. I took several photos of their encampment; one which will appear when my novel, TRES PIEDRAS is released. ('soon' says my editor)

The TUCSON TERRITORY cover is a section of a photo of the horse pasture on my old riding partner’s ranch in southern Arizona.

As time marches on and more people read my work, I may change some covers.  Vamos a ver! 

Sunday, May 19, 2013


Since Panama is surrounded by water; 2 oceans, a canal, and several large lakes, one would assume many folks would own boats. That’s not the case. The majority of the locals can’t afford a boat or have never subscribed to the boater mentality. Many of the people that live in the highlands don’t do the ocean; some can’t even swim.

David, in Chiriquí province, is several kilometers away from the Pacific but there is a marina a short distance from my house; in Pedregal.  This river community is considered the GUN AND KNIFE district after hours.  However, it is close (less than 2 KM) to the center of Panama’s second largest city. Although I’ve had a couple of problems at night in Pedregal, I’ve never had a problem during the day.
During the high season, many boaters move their vessels downstream from the marina in Pedregal to Boca Chica.  That’s definitely a boating community, as is Bocas del Toro on the Caribbean coast of Panama.
Located in Pedregal is a very good boat builder, Tony Bernal.  He services the fishing fleet; providing inexpensive Pongas.  (I represented him as a boat broker many years ago.)  He makes strong boats (pongas mostly -- up to 36 feet in length).

Another boat builder, Rex Hudson, operates out of an area located well past the oil terminal at Puerto Armuelles.  He builds all sizes of boats.  His company manufactures sport fishing boats (DeepSport) up to 40 feet in length & down to 15 foot pongas. (I also represented his company when I was selling boats).  The boats shown in photos belong to Rex.   They are all for sale.  For details, give me a shout.

Both builders will build custom boats.  They also refurbish vessels.  (I’ve seen quite a few on the river that need this service!) 

Friday, May 17, 2013


PANAMA HOUSING is based on affordability and preference.  Since the Spaniards arrived in the 1500’s, housing in Panama has taken various forms.


This is Fort San Lorenzo back in the mid 1950’s.  Photo by my father, Wayne Hatting.


This is my place in David.


This home is on the back edge of a farm not far from David.
While commercial fishing  in Alaska, I often sought the warmth of Mexico during the winter months.  Then I got hooked into skiing and didn’t visit very often.  I bought a place midway between Smithers and Fort Saint James in British Columbia and spent my winters on the slopes.  However, once I exited the Alaska fishery scene, I sold my place in Canada and ventured south.   I bought a place near Williams, AZ with my fishbucks.  It was 40 acres in the wilderness.  I started building a self sufficient place off the grid.  I was about half way through the project when I met this guy in Flagstaff that was headed south in his Motor home.  At one time he had fished Alaska, too.  He was a mechanic in Flagstaff and we seemed to hit it off.  He had the nicest girlfriend.  She was sweet & petite – but uglier than homemade soap. She was extremely mercenary. My friend loved her dearly but she had one of those “for rent to the highest bidder”, mind sets.  She saw me as a guy with deep pockets and made her play before we reached our destination of Puerto Vallarta, Mexico.  I declined her offer and decided for the sake of my friendship, it was time to strike out on my own.  I paid Roy my share of the expenses, grabbed my gear, and stayed a couple of nights in a roadside cantina.  It was ‘bedbug city’ but the food and drink and were good and the waitress was friendly.  I entered a couple of late evening card games and was able to break even for my entertainment.  My waitress friend decided to be my personal tour guide. We made a couple of side trips into parts of the interior not often visited by tourists; I learned firsthand how Tequila was made and my ‘tour guide’ and I lazed around the various hotels on our week-long excursion.  Later, I found a saddle shop of some merit.  I spent hours watching the guys plait rawhide reins and riatas. My guide needed to get back to her village and I needed to start my journey back to Arizona we parted on friendly terms.  I took a series of buses and finally arrived in Puerto Vallarta. Their airport was under repair so most international flights had been cancelled.  I began looking for alternate transportation. Once I had the bus scheduled in my fist I decided to explore the tourist city,
For me -- As usual, the docks of any community are a magnet.  Puerto Vallarta was no different.  From my cowboy background; lariats, reins and spurs being fabricated to the lure of the sirens of the deep.  I walked the docks and finally ran into several statesider couples; four different boats all from the west coast of the USA.  All but one was for sale.  The fourth told me they’d sell if the price was right. So, I decided it was the right place to hear some stories of the sea.  However, most of the tales were about why they were in Mexico. I suspect one of the couples…the one that wasn’t for sale, was on the run from the IRS, an ex-partner or both. Later in the day, a single guy that had his boat on the hook in the harbor joined me for a late lunch and a few beers.  He hailed from Newport, Oregon and we began discovering all the people we knew in common.
Glenn steered his sailboat toward the transient dock at Puerto Vallarta’s downtown marina.  Being hailed by the local yacht broker and told that someone wanted to inspect his boat, Glenn fired the engines immediately and ordered his deckhand, Jimmy, to haul anchor.  This was do or die for Glenn.  He was broke and had to sell the boat soon, or it would be confiscated.  It was all he had left.  Six years of scrimping and saving, putting his life at risk as a deckhand on a leaky, ill equipped drag boat out of Newport Oregon, and two years chasing tuna all over the Pacific coast, had netted him only the boat.  A year earlier he had single-handedly sailed the Northern Yankee from Newport to Cabo San Lucas to keep it from the hands of his creditors. A rough, dangerous, but exciting, passage. 
Two men and a woman were standing on the dock awaiting his arrival.  The taller man, without instruction, took the line tossed by Jimmy and gave him a spring line.  The smaller man caught the stern line and had his boat tied hard and fast with two half-hitches on the dock cleat.  The taller man did the same amidships, and stood ready for another bow-line.  It was apparent to Glenn these guys were seamen.  The beautiful woman was just a spectator; standing back as the men did the work.
I paid him for bed and board and stayed with him on his boat for almost a week. He was headed south.  I was tempted to take him up on his offer to sail to Costa Rica but instead took a series of 3rd rate buses to Mexico City and flew back to Arizona, via Vegas.
My novel, EXPat, was spawned while making the arduous journey from PV to Mexico City. Too much windshield time and too much imagination. Most of the time I was the only one who spoke English and my Spanish was so poor all I had were the thoughts rattling around in my head to entertain myself.  
The plot of ExPat was adjusted when I arrived in the states and read a news story about some poker player getting stabbed and robbed in Las Vegas; he’d taken his winnings in cash to impress some woman.
I set the novel aside and did some exciting things with my life; NOT -- I went back into business.
In 2003 I took a trip to Puerto Vallarta on Southwest Airlines and stayed a week as a tourist.  I flew from there to San Jose, Costa Rica via Mexico City and then on to Golfito, CR to visit friends.  I was able to finalize the ExPat story during this 5 week vacation. What was intended to be a short story ended up with five plot layers -- 80,000 words. 

Wednesday, May 15, 2013


This poster has nothing to do with my volume of ‘period westerns’ except the title.  THE TERRITORY is a pilot for a TV series produced and directed by my friends, Ed Wheeler and Jerry Woods.  Many of the actors in the pilot I’d met when out on the book tour; touting my novel, PARTNERS. The pilot was filmed in the Tucson area; specifically TRAIL DUST TOWN over on the east side. 
Tucson has always had an allure for its rowdy western past.  It seemed to fall out of favor with Hollywood and New York when the recession-depression-slowdown occurred (still going?).  It’s unfortunate that no one picked up the pilot.  Ed Wheeler assures me it is still relevant and available.