Thursday’s book launch  for Corridor of Darkness: a Novel of Nazi Germany was not only a great party (over 110 came to Mraz Brewing Company), but your generous contributions raised over $400 for Fat Kitty City non-profit animal sanctuary ( My heartfelt thanks to all of you gracious supporters who turned out for the gathering, or contributed even though you couldn’t attend.

Photo by Jessica Mraz at Mraz Brewing Company, El Dorado Hills CA

Photo by Jessica Mraz at Mraz Brewing Company, El Dorado Hills CA

As the next photo shows, some cats are already celebrating your generosity. (Sorry, couldn’t track down a source for this shot: these cats know how to keep their secrets!)


And for all of you who are now reading Corridor of Darkness, don’t forget to post your rating of the novel and a word or two of comment on Amazon when you finish. Just go to and write in Corridor of Darkness in the search box, then click on the novel’s title.

Again, thanks for your support. The  animals thank you…I thank you.Original cover choice (111x129)

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Don’t forget the launch party for

book cover - Copy (2)

Thursday 11/21 from five to seven pm at

Mraz Brewing Company, 2222 Francisco Drive, El Dorado Hills CA

And if you’d prefer to go incognito, reach for that fedora, that veiled hat, anything 1930s style, or even dress up completely in thirties  garb.

No obligation, but is there ever a wrong time to work your best spy look?



cover standing figures

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Dear friends, blog followers and readers who live in the Greater Sacramento area,

You are invited to come celebrate the release of my debut novel Corridor of Darkness, a book Kirkus Reviews calls “rife with historical intrigue.”

It’s Thursday, November 21st from 5:00 to 7:00 at Mraz Brewery, 2222 Francisco Drive, Suite 510, El Dorado Hills, CA.

2013 Sammy Award Winner Christian DeWild has agreed to share his great blues  talent with us.

And a portion of any book sales profits at the event will go to Fat Kitty City, El Dorado Hills’ non-profit animal rescue.

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Here’s your chance to put an end to the recent and shameless self-promotion on this blog.

It’s an easy, three-step process:

1) Come celebrate. 2) Read the espionage novel. 3) Review on

Or, read the novel first.  Either way, I’d love to have you there.

Let me know if you can attend! And thanks!

Original cover choice (111x129)

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Note to Readers:  It’s Veteran’s Day! 

These days we have a military of volunteers, brave women and men who choose to risk their lives for their country.  But back during the Vietnam era, an army of draftees as well as volunteers handled  the tasks assigned to it, some heroically, some begrudgingly. And I know there were some not exactly cut out for all the challenges of military life.

And if you’re joining this narrative without having read the preceding two posts on the start of one veteran’s relatively short military career, I’d recommend you drop down to start at Part I.  

This is my story, for better or for worse.

Fort Sill

Halfway through our Artillery Fire Direction Control training in Oklahoma, a wondrous bit of news surfaces: the graduating class several weeks ahead of us just got its orders, and the entire group is heading to Germany. Even the drill sergeants are surprised by a German shipment of newly-minted soldiers, and rumors run rampant.  And just as quickly quashed with assurances that this is a fluke, “they’ll rotate you all into Vietnam after a few months, anyway.”

Now I had been  at a German university when  ordered back to the States to report for duty earlier that summer. At Ft Lewis I was invited to sign up for a program to become part of a “pacification team” in Vietnam, first spending a year learning Vietnamese. I had turned it down, since there was no doubt that choice would take me to Southeast Asia. Rumor had it that pacification teams went into dangerous areas ahead of the troops, which didn’t sound all that appealing  if I still had any other options.  And for some reason I held out a feeble hope that luck and circumstance might send me back to Europe.

And here was luck and circumstance knocking at the Ft Sill, Oklahoma door. Perhaps.

After the short-lived excitement of possible alternative destinations for our field duty, the orders for the next graduating class ahead of us came in: all headed to Vietnam, lock, stock and barrel.

Finally, we were told that our company’s orders were in, sitting over at headquarters under lock and key, but we wouldn’t learn what they were for a week. What?

Cue tension-filled music…

In the dead of the night three soldiers approach company headquarters. One flashlight, not clicked on until the last moment. A fellow from Chicago picks locks; “an easy one”, he says. File cabinets are carefully opened and examined as another soldier keeps close watch for the roving guards. The file is found, the orders quickly scanned. The door is re-locked and all is quiet on the Oklahoma front.

At least that’s what I hear happened. Can’t swear to it, you understand.

Word spreads quickly by morning light. The majority of our class has orders for Germany. Six are going to Korea for a brief holdover until rotated into Vietnam. I’m among the lucky six headed to Korea and then on to the war.

Now one thing you heard again and again in the draftee Army was “don’t write Washington, your congressman won’t do you a damned bit of good, and we’ll have your ass in a sling if you do.” That sort of thing.

So I wrote my senator in Washington instead. I explained that, as long as most of my other classmates were headed to Germany, and inasmuch as I had lived there and spoke the language, perhaps it might be reasonable to send our entire class to practice Fire Direction Control in the German field, even if only temporarily. At least until they rotate all of us into Vietnam.

Airmail. Special delivery. Fingers crossed.

A week goes by without a word. Graduation approaches, and I let my family know I’m headed to Korea.

Then a clerk shows up at my classroom and tells the sergeant I’m wanted by the CO. I dutifully head over to company headquarters, and the captain’s reception is very warm.  Hot, even.  Seems I wrote my senator.  Seems the good senator pulls some weight on the Armed Services Committee in Washington. Seems he believes our whole class deserves a trip to Germany. Best use of manpower.

To five of my buddies, I’m a hero.

To my sergeants and officers, something less of one.

But we are all headed east rather than west, and for us draftees, at that moment, it seems a very good thing.

Copyright 2013 Patrick W. O’Bryon

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Many of you loyal friends, followers and readers have been waiting to hear that CORRIDOR OF DARKNESS: a Novel of Nazi Germany, is NOW AVAILABLE FOR YOUR KINDLE OR iPAD!

photo of cover

Click here to find the ebook:

And here to order the trade paperback version:

and then enter Patrick O’Bryon or Corridor of Darkness at the search prompt, or visit, which takes you directly to the book.

And thanks to all of you who have offered such great support to my debut novel.

Don’t forget to write your own review on Amazon.

Original cover choice (111x129)

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On the virtual bookstore shelves at last…CORRIDOR OF DARKNESS, a Novel of Nazi Germany, now available on both and as a trade paperback. Coming soon to other on-line outlets such as Barnes & Noble, as well.

Three years in the writing, offering 362 pages of intrigue and espionage, all from a guy who knows so little about using Microsoft Word that this proves miracles can happen.finalfrontThe eBook Kindle edition will follow in a day or so, delayed by a technical error. (That also means me.) I’ll announce its arrival soon.

Meanwhile, for those of you who treasure and look and feel of a solid paperback, please take a look at:

and then enter Patrick O’Bryon or Corridor of Darkness at the search prompt, or visit, which takes you directly to the book.      rear coverI hope you enjoy reading it–thank you for supporting me in this venture. Share your thoughts by leaving your comments here on the blog, or by posting a review on Amazon once you’ve read the book. Please spread the word to all your reading and blogging friends, and watch for an announcement of the book’s launch party coming November 21st.

And Volume 2, BEACON OF VENGEANCE, is underway, due November 2014!

Original cover choice (111x129)


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CORRIDOR OF DARKNESS. A Novel of Nazi Germany.

“…rife with historical intrigue…” – Kirkus Reviews

Coming this weekend to

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My Career in the Military: Part Two–Fire Direction Control

Go ahead…step off the plane onto the sticky tarmac at Fort Sill, Oklahoma, six a.m., the searing sun just breaking the horizon on a late August day. You recoil at the blast of a hot wind and dense humidity. Your military adventure has taken a new step.

It’s 1970.  America is at war in Vietnam. And you’re here to learn how to tell artillery gunners exactly where to drop their shells.  You’ve been told by veterans that you’ll replace a fallen second lieutenant within weeks of being in-country. You’ll be a forward observer.  You’ll soon join the fallen lieutenant.  Rousing stuff, all that, cheering you on.

First you study in the classroom, where you are pounded over the head with concepts of shell velocity, ammo type and fuse setting, bearing and elevation, plus all the other terms I’ve forgotten.  And you have to endure the callous “jokes” of instructors who find the bombing of orphanages and monasteries particularly funny as they demonstrate examples of correct targeting.

It’s 1970.  And two movies are still making the rounds in the theaters. One, Patton, stars George C. Scott, and it’s a rousing salute to WWII battle and command bravado which is shown at the base theater.  The second, M*A*S*H, inspiration for the later long-running television series, takes a somewhat more jaundiced look at military life during the Korean Way and (indirectly) Vietnam.  It shows off-post only.  I see them both.


Somehow, I feel myself drawn to the latter more than the former, and my Advanced Individual Training is underway, so it’s time to make it more interesting.


Now by a quirk of fate my best boyhood neighbor Dan happens to be held-over between training sessions at Ft. Sill when I arrive. He has signed up for some sort of special non-com Ranger training–I can’t remember specifics–so he has nothing but time on his hands. I don’t tell him I’m here, just seek him out where he’s trying to catch a few late-morning z’s and drag him off his cot and on to the barracks floor.  He takes it well, and we decide to make our stay at Ft. Sill as interesting as possible.

Now you need to know this about Dan:  he and I were hell-bent-for-leather buddies in junior and senior high school.  So we nearly blew up his father’s garage with our home chemistry lab (that story in another blog post), raced our bicycles so fast off a bridge heading home from school that I ended up using my head to destroy a  car’s side window, dressed in black wet suits, took a rubber raft, and planted fake limpet mines at night on the sides of Navy ships at the Port of Stockton, almost being swamped by a huge freighter…you get the idea.  Typical teenagers.

So now we’re both typical young twenty-somethings. And all of Ft. Sill is ours for the taking.

Some examples:

First:  KP.  For those who don’t know or care to remember, that’s Kitchen Police.  It meant that soldiers had kitchen duty all day long when your number came up, or you were being punished for some misdeed. Dan filled me in right away that the best move was to get up and in line before five a.m., and I’d have your choice of jobs.  These ranged from the easiest–greeting and helping unload supply trucks bringing in the grub–to the hardest, such as hand-scrubbing the pots and pans all day long.

So I always got there early and took the supply room job.  I’d sit in back of the potato bin (since you didn’t want any of the non-coms to catch you with time on your hands). I’d read a paperback and wait for the trucks to arrive and sound their horns, then quickly help off-load the goods, then disappear once again into the potato bin.  Worked like a charm.

Now the soldiers training in FDC all had to have a certain level of smarts, since relatively complex mathematical gyrations were involved in figuring out how exactly to get those artillery shells from the mouth of the gun to the intended target. So most of us were reasonably smart, and many were unreasonably smart-ass.  Which didn’t make things particularly great for the drill sergeants whose only apparent task in life was to keep this bunch in line.

Every morning bright and early we would be rousted from our bunks by these hapless sergeants. They’d enter the barracks, switch on the glaring overhead lights, and rattle our bunks. And all the sleepy-eyed soldiers would roll grumbling to the ground and amble off to get prepared for the day’s events.

At that time there was a television commercial for a breakfast cereal which featured a herd of cartoon animals hastening off en masse, I presume to their doom, since they were intended to feed the kids.  “The one and only cereal that comes in the shape of animals,” was the sales slogan.

One morning I rousted all of my platoon out of bed a half-hour early, before the sun was up.  We dressed and hid behind a partition near the barracks door.  When the sergeant entered and flipped on the lights, all he saw was a long bank of empty, already made beds. And then came the herd:  twenty-five or so soldiers clumped together in one big shuffling mass as we nearly trampled our way out of the barracks, singing “The one and only cereal that comes in the shape of animals.”

Dumbfounded by the raw courage, the pure idiocy of the moment, the drill sergeant (once he got out of the corner he had been forced into), shook his head in disgust and ordered us all off the breakfast.

Here’s another example:  We are mustered for morning roll-call, lining up in rank and file, platoon by platoon, company by company, because a new battalion commander is there that morning to review his troops.  It’s dark. A faint hint of approaching morning on the horizon.  And here’s what’s supposed to happen:  the commander calls out from his rostrum  “Battalion!” in his best command voice. The company commanders call our from their respective positions: “Company!” The drill sergeants call our “Platoon!”And then the new commander shouts “Attention!” and every troop snaps to attention in a fine display of military regimen and behavior.

Okay, so here’s how it went down:  “Battalion!” “Company!” “Platoon!” And before he can get out the word “Attention!,” some wise-ass shouts from the darkness, “Squad!” And another voice from the back: “Troop!” And finally, several other miscreants join in with “Troop!” The whole assembly breaks down in misguided laughter.

Angry grumbling from front and center, a hasty call to “try it again,” and once again a solid disregard for protocol ensues.

The commander gives up in disgust:  “Get them to the mess hall.” And all but the officers cheer.  The guilty parties were never apprehended. Thank God it was dark.

Now Dan had a motorcycle on post.  And I wasn’t allowed off-post without a pass.  But things happen.  So we explored Lawton, which is the nearby town and was graced with a main street lined with bars, clubs with lovely girls in skimpy outfits, and enough private chapels to save the misguided soul of every soldier in the artillery.

Dan and I were saved a few times in return for free cookies and soft drinks; it just didn’t feel right to disappoint the freelance preachers who were convinced that a moment of bowed heads would immediately drive Satan from our young hearts and minds. Not with all those attractive girls around, anyway.

All went well until we ended up late at night in a Lawton pizza joint, enjoying a last minute snack and beer before sneaking back on post.  I looked down the long table and met the eyes of one of my drill sergeants.  He looked back, shook his head in horror, and returned to his conversation with a young woman.  Maybe his wife?  I never heard more about that incident.

The time came when we all seemed well enough versed in doing the math to correctly direct artillery fire and we were introduced to…computers.  Now think about it, when do you first remember hearing the term, or checking out the new Commodore at Radio Shack?


The Army was way ahead of the curve and had these olive-drab computers about the size of a large box which were designed to do all that computation we had learned to do manually.  Then we found out why they were showing up so late in our training.  The trainers who had seen action in the field said the computers would fail after a couple of days to weeks in the humid jungles of Vietnam.  But for the moment, we gathered in groups of two or three in little rooms, learning how to program  the necessary data to come up with the basic instructions to phone out to the men manning the big guns.

Unfortunately, that took us about one day’s  practice, but the Army had directed that we spend a much longer period learning the ropes.  So my team mates and I decided to pass the time between spot visits from the supervising sergeant or lieutenant computing just what shell/fuse/ammo/etc., taking into account the spin of the globe, would be required to get the shell to leave the gun barrel, make a beautiful trajectory, and land right back in the mouth of the cannon.  A typical (and useful) computation took a few minutes to come up with a result.  Our poor computer took ages, obviously confused and worried by the ridiculous things we demanded of it.  And after about twenty minutes of hilarity as we awaited the computed results, in walked the lieutenant.

“About done, boys?” he asked.

“Yes, sir,” we answered, hoping against hope that he would leave right away.

He didn’t.  He sat down to await our results. Minutes ticked by. Results came in.

He called it a day. We were sent back to the barracks.

Strangely, we were never punished for our inconsistent behavior.  I guess they figured we wouldn’t last long in Vietnam anyway, so why not give us a little fun along the way?

Little did they know we still had a trick or two up our olive-drab sleeves.

Coming next:  The Orders are In, and We’re Moving Out

Copyright 2013 by Patrick W. O’Bryon

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My Career in the Military: Part One: You’re in the Army Now

Okay, so here’s a secret…not everyone is cut out to be a soldier.  Or, for that matter, a sailor, marine, or…well, you get the picture. That’s why we have an all-volunteer military. But that wasn’t always the case, and when I was twenty-one the young men of our nation enjoyed that very special process called the draft.

Strange choice of words.  Sit in a draft, my Peoria grandmother said, you might catch your death. Get called up in a draft, you also might just catch your death. Period. And you didn’t volunteer for the danger.

Now, always more a thinker than a fighter, I wasn’t excited to hear that I had pulled a rather low draft number. The Vietnam War was still actively in progress, and many of my friends were heading over to fight and sometimes die.  And those who managed to make it back unscathed often found themselves the objects of public scorn and contempt. Yes, contempt. Few of us draftees were excited at our prospects.

So back then I reported for duty at the Stockton Greyhound station and was bused to the Oakland induction center, where I stood in line with the fellow long-haired young men of my day, waiting to see what we’d gotten ourselves into.

It didn’t take long to find out.

Along came a marine sergeant and two marines, and he started counting down the line I was in, tapping anxious recruits on the shoulder as he went. I held my breath and just as he reached the quivering guy in front of me, he reached his goal, announced that the chosen dozen ahead of us in line were now marines—“not army scum”—and marched them off to Camp Pendleton or Fort Ord or somewhere equally intimidating.  Whew!  The rest of us breathed a sigh of relief. Our first bullet dodged.

Then they processed us and prodded us and tested us, and after thirty-six hours of transit we ended up in Fort Lewis, Washington. They drove us from the bus like cattle who had somehow offended, ran us through a long line to gather our army wear and gear, and shaved our heads down to stubble. (Sent me back twice to the barber chair for a second and third go-round…mine hadn’t been cut short enough.) And boot camp began.

Now these days fitness fans are proud to boot camp this and boot camp that. But as newly-minted soldiers most of us weren’t used to the hours, the strict regimen of training, and having drill sergeants yelling in your face constantly night and day, spit and feigned anger flying. And some of were independent thinkers, not used to the concept of thinking/acting/reacting as a cog in the wheel.

So we looked for ways to cope.

I smiled.  A lot. Much to the consternation of the drill sergeants, whose “wipe that damn smile off your face, O’Bryon” became a mantra. But I just couldn’t help myself.  Anymore than those of us who chanted “love, love, love” rather than “kill, kill, kill” as we stabbed bayonets into long-suffering dummies. We just weren’t cut out for war—you know, we were the kids who had played Robin Hood with home-made bows and arrows rather than those others who played soldier with guns and fake helmets.  We relived ancient history, not modern warfare.

And those of us who failed to hurl unarmed grenades an adequate distance during the day were forced march off after dinner to practice till the sun set. Now if push came to shove, I imagine I could have thrown those grenades a lot farther and more accurately.  But my goal was not to stand out as an impressive future infantryman. (It should be noted that–on the one day we tossed live grenades–that baby left my immediate proximity like a bat out of hell.)

It was bad enough that I was singled out as an expert marksman with the M-16A1 rifle. I had little concept of how it was happening, but those damn targets just kept dropping.  I am convinced I was hitting gravel a few feet in front of the targets and the stones were doing the heavy scoring.  Earned a nice badge, though.

Eventually my drill sergeants realized they couldn’t wipe that damned smile off my face, so one ordered me to find a smooth stone and carry it in my pocket.  Anytime I felt like smiling I was to take out the stone and put it in my mouth.

So I quickly learned to smile around the stone.

After a week or two he would simply ask:  “O’Bryon, where’s your rock.”

And I would answer:  “In my pocket, drill sergeant.”

And then he’d shake his head in disgust and move on.

Eventually they named me acting platoon sergeant, figuring that trying to control that unruly bunch of military misfits would take the smile off my face.  Didn’t work.

Sure, a few types dissatisfied with my “leadership” tried to “accidently” impale me with bayonets during night marches and such (these were the days of “fragging”), but overall, being a leader was more fun than being a follower. I had my own personal bed rather than a bunk, and the night guards were my friends and kept me alive over night.

Once I was supposed to camouflage myself and hide out in the woods to ambush small squads of trainees making their way along the woodland paths.  I covered myself with pine boughs and leaves and proceeded to fall asleep, only to be awakened by the sound of troops marching back to the barracks…a situation rather embarrassing to explain as I caught up with the company.

When graduation time came we gathered for a commemorative photo.  The drill sergeant shouted out:  “O’Bryon, you can smile. The rest of you dirtbags, wipe the grins off your faces.” Here, take a look.  That’s me in the middle. The one still smiling.

Army life

I got orders a week later to train in Fire Direction Control at Fort Sill, Oklahoma.  Those few of us so specially selected were held over for a week, waiting for transport and the next training classes to begin. Meanwhile, the drill sergeants told us to kiss our asses good-bye. They said FDC was the second most dangerous artillery specialty, since the FDC guys replaced the  lieutenants who were forward observers, telling the gunners where the shells were to fall. Being a lieutenant in the artillery was number one most dangerous job, aka most-likely not to survive the first few weeks.  And my new specialty pretty much guaranteed a trip to the jungles of Vietnam.

I threw away the stone.  I’d stopped smiling.

(Stay tuned:  next installment, Advanced Individual Training [AIT] in Oklahoma)

Copyright 2013 Patrick W. O’Bryon

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Debut of My First Novel

Dear Readers and Followers: My debut novel inspired by the 1930’s European adventures of my late father will be available as both trade paperback and ebook in November. Watch for the official launch and find it on and elsewhere.

“An intriguing early WWII spy yarn set in a well-researched, authentic Germany.”
Kirkus Reviews

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