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Hey, Clown Towners,
Okay, a few years ago I wanted to fulfill one of my dreams—to provide a fun magazine for my friends while enjoying the life of a published author. I created a “magaletter” (very catchy) called Clown Town. We tried to publish monthly, but it proved too much for an aging Italian-American author; so, we moved to bimonthly, then quarterly, and now that I’m working on my next-masterpiece-no-doubt-about-it-best-seller-based-on-a-true-story with the working title The Greatest Escape, it’ll come out whenever I can.
My publicists from Eckhartz Press suggested that I try publishing it on this blogging page (open for comments and dialogue) just a section at time, so I’m trying it. Right now, it’s just this LETTER FROM LOU. Coming up we have:
• An interview with best-selling, world renown author of the V. I. Warshawski series Sara Paretsky
• An interview with a biker-adventurer-firefighter-realtor-skydiver and more.
• Humor that will send you to the hospital for laughing cramps and hyperventilation.
• Entertainment and reading recommendations.
• And much more.
So, hang in there with me, and don’t be afraid to recommend Clown Town to your friends. They may think you’re really cool . . . or they may never speak to you again. Either way, as the late and great Paul Newman once said, “In this life, you’re either scoring the winning points or just showing your ass.”
Love and Best,

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You’re receiving this email because of your relationship with Lou Macaluso and your written request for Clown Town. You may unsubscribe by contacting Lou at loumacaluso@gmail.com.



Some of you Clown Towners may be wondering when the next edition of Clown Town is coming out. Toby, the guy who hangs around the train station near my home and talks to himself, asked me just yesterday, “Hey, Lou when is the next ‘magaletter’ coming out, and did you hear that Dean Martin & Jerry Lewis broke up?”
I explained that as a writer I’ve been busy working on the draft of my next book and bestseller, DER SENIORTUNNEL, and haven’t had time to devote to Clown Town.
He replied, “Who cares, but what about that Martin & Lewis breakup?” and offered me a sample of his homemade Raison Bran cereal made from woodchips and rat crap.

Actually, I’m working on a new format that will allow me to work less and allow you to laugh more.
BTW, as the anal-retentive internet sheriffs remind me, my disclaimer/unsubscribe message is below. I hope you don’t unsubscribe, but if you choose to do so, I respect that. I’ll also send you a free box of Toby’s homemade cereal.

Love & Best,
You’re receiving this email because of your relationship with Lou Macaluso and your written request for Clown Town. You may unsubscribe by contacting Lou at loumacaluso@gmail.com.

Art and Music: Q & A with Raymond Benson

Art and Music: Q & A with Raymond Benson


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Raymond Benson

Raymond Benson has been an award-winning and best-selling author, composer, computer game designer, stage director, film historian, and film genres instructor for over thirty years. He is also the fourth official author of the James Bond 007 novels.

Q:  Raymond, occasionally Clown Town interviews a subject that defies our commitment to a brief, concise slice of an artist and his/her talents. We couldn’t possibly cover the list (and I would add guest speaking) of your artistic endeavors, so we’ll focus on Raymond Benson, author/composer-musician. Let’s start with “official author of the adult James Bond novels . . .” How did that title evolve, and where did it lead?

Raymond:           I was the official Bond author between 1996 and 2002. I suppose you can say it started with my non-fiction book, The James Bond Bedside Companion, first published in 1984. It was my first published book. During the three-year process of researching and writing it, I traveled to England and met members of Ian Fleming’s family, his business people, his friends, and most importantly, the man who was his literary agent, Peter Janson-Smith. Janson-Smith was chairman of what was called at the time Glidrose Publications (it is now called Ian Fleming Publications Ltd). We got along and he liked the . . . Bedside Companion, so we stayed in touch over the years while John Gardner was writing the Bond books. I did little odd jobs for Glidrose (no pun intended), including being commissioned to write a James Bond stage play based on Casino Royale, which never went anywhere. In the meantime, I still did theatre, music, writing, and got into the computer gaming industry as a writer/designer. But in late 1995, I received a call from Janson-Smith; he told me John Gardner wanted to retire from the Bond gig and would I be interested in giving it a shot? OMG. In a way I had to audition. I had to supply an outline of the story first, to be approved not only by Glidrose, but by the American and UK publishers. Once that outline was approved, I had to write the first four chapters, with the same approval process. By then, it was March 1996, and it was announced I was the new writer, the third continuation author and first American. Wrote six original Bond novels, three film novelizations, and three short stories.

Q:  Some of your latest Amazon titles include Europa Universalis: IV: What If? and Ice Cold. Do these works sway from the James Bond format? Tell us about them.

Raymond:            Just about everything I’ve done since my Bond tenure ended in 2002 is different from the Bond format. All of my original novels since then are Hitchcockian-style thrillers in which an everyday, normal person gets caught up in extraordinary circumstances. Most of them feature female protagonists! I must have used up all my testosterone doing Bond, and now I rely on the estrogen in my body. :)   Europa Universalis is a collection of alternate history short stories—I contributed one story about what our world would be like if we hadn’t had Shakespeare. Ice Cold was the 2014 annual Mystery Writers of America anthology, which I co-edited with Jeffery Deaver (the second American author to write Bond!) and to which I contributed a story. Most recently, my magnum opus is The Black Stiletto 5-book serial, which Library Journal succinctly described as a “mashup of the work of Gloria Steinem, Ian Fleming, and Mario Puzo, all under the editorship of Stan Lee.” It features one of my best female protagonists, and it’s currently in development for a television series. I also do a lot of “media tie-in” work—novelizations of videogames or whatever… I suppose sometimes that’s in the “Bond format,” but not always. They can be of various genres.

 Q: Let’s switch to your composer-musician hat. A published bio states that early in life you took an interest in piano that led to composing music. Share that transformation with us. What about your compositions?

Raymond:      I’ve been playing piano since before I can remember, took a couple of years of lessons when I was in elementary school, and from then on developed my own style and method of playing. I started composing in high school and got serious about it in college, where I majored in Drama. I often worked with playwrights who needed music to their lyrics. One of my musicals, “The Resurrection of Jackie Cramer,” text by Frank Gagliano and music by me, took me out of school for a semester for productions in New York and elsewhere. After graduating and spending a year as an apprentice at the Alley Theatre in Houston, I moved to New York to do theatre (my degree emphasis was directing). I directed many shows and composed/performed more music in the theatre. This went on for a decade before I became heavily involved in designing/writing computer games, and even then I composed music for some of the games. Today I do less composing but I constantly perform. I’ve done solo concerts, I play a regular gig at different Mariano’s locations, and play at my synagogue. I’m a rock ‘n’ roller, mostly; I love classic and progressive rock, but I also specialize in movie music.

 Q: How has music carried on in your family?

Raymond:      My son Max Benson is a bass player who got a degree in jazz studies at the Chicago College of Performing Arts at Roosevelt University. He now lives in Los Angeles and is always gigging. Recently he spent six months in China playing in a nightclub in Xaimen. Apparently he made more money in a month in China than he did in a year in L.A.!

 Q: What can we look forward to with regards to your writing and composing? If our readers would like to know more about you and your work, what might they do?

Raymond:      The Black Stiletto is still fresh and gaining a following. I have a new novel out on submission. I’m developing a new science fiction thriller. I play music wherever I am asked to play. I also teach Film History at the College of DuPage in Glen Ellyn, Illinois. Folks in the NW suburbs can see me every month at Dann & Raymond’s Movie Club, which features myself and Chicago film critic Dann Gire. We do a sort-of Siskel & Ebert style live show in front of an audience, in which we take a cinema topic, show clips, and relate history, anecdotes, and jokes. We are entering our 9th season in September. Readers can get a quick-and-dirty bird’s eye view of my career on the Wikipedia page about me, which is surprisingly accurate: www.wikipedia.org/wiki/Raymond_Benson. My website is probably the best stop: www.raymondbenson.com. For more information about the Black Stiletto, go to: www.theblackstiletto.net. I’m on Facebook (both a personal and an author page, and I invite readers friend/like both, and Twitter @RaymondBenson.


Leisure and Travel: Dorinda Urbauer—European Traveler

Leisure and Travel: Dorinda Urbauer—European Traveler

Untitled design (9)Q:  Dorinda, the subtitle of this section is “European Traveler.” What is your fascination with Europe and where/how did this attraction originate?

      Dorinda:  I first went to Russia when I was in college. I was a Russian major. Then, in the early 80s, my colleague and very dear late friend, Norman Hansen, organized a trip to Germany for our German students. I was lucky enough to go along and continued to sponsor a trip for the next twenty years. Since then, I have been hooked and have been fortunate to travel to Europe just about every year, sometimes twice. I love the history, the culture, the pace of life, the food, the people—literally everything about it.

Q:  Which European countries have you visited? Of those mentioned, which two or three are your favorites and why?

Dorinda:  I have visited England, Ireland, Iceland, Spain, France, the Netherlands, Belgium, Germany, Austria, Switzerland, Italy, Hungary, Poland, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Slovenia, Croatia, Bosnia-Herzogovina, Luxembourg, Liechtenstein, Monaco, Vatican City, Greece, Montenegro, and Russia.

The German-speaking countries are the ones I have visited the most and know the most about since I taught German. I very much love Italy, especially Sicily, for its beauty, food, and culture. Croatia and Greece were big surprises. They weren’t at the top of my list as places to visit, but I was absolutely blown away by how much I loved them! Amazing sites, incredible food, wonderful people.

Q:  Share some of your most powerfully emotional experiences on any of these trips.

Dorinda:  Rarely a day goes by when I am in Europe that I am not overwhelmed by something which brings me to tears. Some of my favorite memories were: crossing the border into Austria, the country of my grandparents, for the first time; visiting with relatives in Buchschachen, my grandparents’ hometown, about which I had heard so much when growing up; touching the Berlin Wall and thinking it would never fall in my lifetime; seeing the Eiffel Tower for the first time from a distance as we rode in a cab toward our hotel; being on the Greek island of Hydra, a place without cars, and diving into the blue Mediterranean; petting baby Lippazaner horses in Slovenia; eating the best pasta of my life in Agrigento, Sicily; getting lost in Venice and being amazed by the unbelievable beauty around every corner and listening to the orchestras on Saint Mark’s Square; walking high up in the Alps; going to Anne Frank’s House in Amsterdam and remembering her diary, which was one of my favorite books as a kid; bicycling along the Danube, not believing I was actually riding across Austria; drinking rose wine on the beach in Nice; sitting at a table at Oktoberfest, talking to people, while drinking that wonderful beer. I could probably go on and on…


Q:  Where are you traveling next? What countries/cities would you like to visit or revisit in the future and why?

Dorinda:  In September, we are spending a week in my dream city of Berlin. We are then traveling to Hamburg and to Munich for my sixth Oktoberfest. We will then spend a week in a castle (really!) in northern Bavaria.


I want to go everywhere for the first time and again. I especially hope to visit
Scandinavia, more Greek islands, and return to Sicily.


Q:  What suggestion(s) might you offer to our readers who have never been to Europe but are considering traveling there?

Dorinda:  Just go! Don’t worry about the language barrier, many people speak some English, and there is something wonderful about not really knowing what is going on! The food and wine alone are worth the trip! Don’t depend on being led around by a tour guide—the best experiences are those that are totally unexpected. There is beauty around every corner.


Q:  What’s your philosophy of life, and/or what advice might you give to our readers to help them enjoy life and its stresses?

Dorinda:  Being different is good and dogs are the best gift to help a person de-stress!


Q:  Is there any other information you would like to share with us?

Dorinda:  I would be happy to assist anyone with their trip planning. I am especially proficient in the use of trains! loudor@comcast.net


Humor Time

Humor Time

I sat on the grass hill just beyond the right field fence inside Four Winds Stadium and watched the South Bend Cubs (Chicago Cubs Single A minor league franchise) winning in the 5th inning.

“What the hell will we feature in the Humor section of the blog?” I mused.

The wind blew moisture that slapped the back of my neck. I turned and viewed this:

Kid peeing in the stadium sprinklers!

Kid peeing in the stadium sprinklers!

So, I present to you, The Lighter Side of Sports.

Celebrating the recent Supreme Court marriage ruling.

Celebrating the recent Supreme Court marriage ruling.


I wonder when the damn steroids will kick in!

I wonder when the damn steroids will kick in!


Coach said, "The game is getting edgy" not "give yourself a ...".

Coach said, “The game is getting edgy” not “give yourself a …”.


Kris Urbauer From Military Officer/Engineer to GE Recruiter

Kris Urbauer From Military Officer/Engineer to GE Recruiter

Untitled design (3)Q:   Of all those experiences, which did you find most challenging, which most gratifying, and why?

Kris: Challenging? UN duty, since I was alone- traveled from Fort Bragg to Stuttgart, Germany and on to Zagreb, Croatia alone… even from Zagreb to Sarajevo I was alone. I did meet two Ukrainian officers getting onto the plane with me who helped me with my bags…we boarded a Soviet aircraft- that was surreal as I was a “cold war” era trained soldier! Then, we had to run off the plane to get behind the barriers as the Serbs were shooting at planes landing at the airport in Sarajevo. And they shelled the city every night.

Gratifying? Ground Zero…we all wanted to do something after 9/11, and I was given the opportunity to do so. And I fell in love with NYC during my year there.


   Q:   What brought you to General Electric, and what is the nature of your work now?

Kris: GE recognized my military experience and valued it. I also saw more opportunities to move around and experience a lot of different “businesses” within one company.

Now I am the Program Manager of Military Initiatives for GE. I have responsibility for military recruiting and our Junior Officer Leadership Program.


Q:   How have your military experiences, including West Point, impacted your life today, both professionally and personally?

         Kris: West Point taught me I can do anything I put my mind to. Remember, I graduated in 1986, and there had only been women there since the class of 1980. J   You just have to want it bad enough.


         Q:   What is/are your future career goal(s)?

         Kris:   At this point, I want to be allowed to continue to work with veterans’ programs at GE… hoping they see the value in this for years to come. I enjoy traveling to job fairs for veterans and also teaching transition workshops, helping vets understand how big companies “hire”- helping them get through the maze to get hired, or at least interviewed for roles at GE.


         Q: What’s your philosophy of life, and/or what advice might you give to our readers to help them enjoy life and its stresses?

         Kris:   “I can do anything for two minutes…”

                        And then you just repeat, and repeat.

                        Never quit.