in northwest Missouri. We lived with my paternal grandfather and my father's schoolteacher sisters spent the summer months with us.
I was blessed with books and magazines and a grandfather, mother, and aunts to read them to me. Whether inherited or a habit, I've continued to read fiction and nonfiction on a daily basis even when I'd spent the day reading law books or legal documents as a lawyer. During World War II, our Philco radio, books, magazines, and newsreels at the Saturday night movies provided our information and entertainment.
After high school I continued on at Northwest Missouri State College, the word "Teachers" having been dropped from the name. Four years later I graduated, married a college sweetheart, and headed for Columbia University in New York for a Masters and Ph.D. But fate intervened, in this case my draft board, and before classes began in September 1954 Uncle Sam needed my services to finish the Korean War. Although most of my training class went to Korea, I ended up in Panama as a special agent in the Army Counterintelligence Corps (CIC), thanks to a total immersion, one-year Spanish class in high school that my girl friend prevailed on me to take instead of French.
My novel Hot Times in Panamá: What would you do to serve your country? is a fictionalized story suggested by some of the things I saw or participated in during my tour of duty. The Cold War was in full swing. We fought "Commies" wherever we found them based on the information provided by the followers of Senator Joseph McCarthy and the whims of the Panamanian Policia Secreta, our close friends in the endeavor. For most of us Americans these were trying times. After the exhilaration of winning World War II, we were now threatened by the Soviet Union, our former ally in the battle against Germany, Italy, and Japan. The Communists seemed to be pushing us back everywhere: Eastern Europe, the Berlin blockade, the fall of China, and retreat from Vietnam by the French. We felt betrayed by Americans who had spied for the Soviets during World War II and helped them make their nuclear bomb. The war in Korea was ending as a stalemate. Many Americans felt threatened and uneasy. This is how a farm kid from Northwest Missouri with a degree in English and French and one-year of Spanish ended up running agents and dealing with Commie sympathizers in a country he'd previously known only by its canal.
On separation from the Army I decided to go to Harvard Law School instead of returning to Columbia. As a part-time job I was a Teaching Fellow in the English Department of Harvard College for a couple of years, teaching grammar and writing to foreign students. My education started with living in New York City for several months, continued in Panama, and finished in Cambridge, MA. I was then ready for what came next.
In June 1959 I joined a Chicago law firm where I practiced for the next thirty-two years, including an 8-year stint in Washington, D. C. to start an office for the firm. Specializing in corporate finance and governance, I worked on financings and mergers and acquisitions for banks, investment banks and public and private companies and served on the boards of several public companies. My service in the CIC provided valuable experience in dealing with people, situations and conflicts frequently encountered in the practice of law. I better understand who's lying, the real (not stated) objectives of people, how much or how little you can trust people, dealing with people who are not interested in the truth, and how it feels to have an Uzi two feet from your belly button with a thug's finger on the trigger.
Someone asked me when did I start writing fiction. As a child when I rewrote by hand the stories about Greek gods and fairy tales because I wasn't satisfied with what they said. The reports I wrote about Communist and other nefarious activities in Panama, the facts sometimes needing a little coloring to get attention at Headquarters, which noted my reports as a standard for "good writing"? The prospectuses for public offerings I wrote as lawyer may have approached fiction, although none ever landed in court? I'll take responsibility for "fiction" with my book Hot Times in Panamá.