One Foot in Hell; the Other in Heaven

For the last couple of months it has been my honor to help Duke Miller, whose work I love, publish his book. Living and Dying with Dogs went out of print a bit over a year ago. Now comes Living and Dying with Dogs: Turbo Edition. The new book contains extensive rewrites and the inclusion of Handbook for the Hopeless, a bizarre novella cum employment guide for emergency refugee relief workers. How to describe the Handbook?  More on that later.  Despite the title, this 2nd Edition is not about creating a doggie hospice program. It’s about the people who rush into war zones hoping to bring help to victims of genocides, famines, and epidemics and how the emergency aid process alters everyone’s perception of what we quaintly call reality. It’s about what happens to people forced to check their morals at the door in order to do what needs to be done. Do the ends justify the means? Duke explores this heuristic notion where the sick and dying lie. In that sense, this book asks the old questions, but provides new answers. He writes about things we don’t want to think about, like how the best of us can falter or how our furry friends occasionally eat the hands that have fed them.   If this book was an endless slog over mountains of corpses, I’d probably only recommend it for those considering a career in relief work. But it’s not. There’s dark humor here, poetry as well.  Take the beautiful Hollywood agent who the protagonist admits he should have never slept with. She urges him to write more conventional stories that people can understand, like For Whom the Bell Tolls.  Stuff she can easily sell to the movie industry. He dreads her visits but WTF, she knows people. Maybe he’d better sleep with her again. But no…ghosts surround him and the lost appear before his eyes: the invisible ones he’s loved and mourned. A trip home makes him feel like an alien.  Old friends are left behind.  Disease rots his body and always there is the dark alley or endless hallway populated by drug addicts.  However, sometimes “life floods the parched regions” of his heart in unexpected places, like leper colonies, whore houses, and the wounds of a dying child.

Which brings us to Handbook for the Hopeless  in which an online suicide haunts a man tasked with writing a “how to get a job in a war zone” manual by his well-meaning publisher. But every time he attempts to tell it straight, another ghost enters his mind and down he falls into the waiting arms of one humorously dark character after the other.   We were aided in our publishing endeavor by John’s Motorcycle Storage and Rare Book Disposal of Long Island whose logo is above. You can read more about Duke Miller here and here and at TinhatsBlog. The artwork for both the cover and the logo were provided by Duke’s wife, Teresa Miller.

The paperback (365 pages)  is currently for sale on Amazon at $12. Or you can download the eBook for $2.99.

Anyway, that’s what I’ve been doing and now I’m off to snap pictures of doors!


14 thoughts on “One Foot in Hell; the Other in Heaven

  1. Jan – Congratulations to Duke for a book that, at last, can help us begin to understand what is out there in a scary, real zone. And congratulations to you on your great editing job. I hope Duke recognizes what a fiery gem – a magical purveyor – you are. Okay, I’ll tell him on TinHatsBlog.

  2. I wish there were a LOVE button on your blog, Jan! This is so great. I have a Kindle version of Duke’s earlier edition, but I’m going to get the paperback, and maybe he can sign it sometime! The artwork is amazing too. Damn, too bad we don’t all live closer together so we could have a book release party.

  3. Jan – your tireless work and writing is inspiring. Every time I have the chance I take a look at what you are up to and another gem comes through. p.s. When I was in Durham, England, I took a lot of pictures of doors and wanted to do a photo book titled, Durham Doors…so I will dig some of them up and share them later.

      1. I can certainly imagine the beautiful stories being there. But, surprisingly, I never considered the horror stories or how devastating they might be for a relief worker. I’ve always thought of those folks as being the cavalry, rushing in with nary a thought to how the images of horror might affect them. Only their focus on their ability to bring hope. This book, though, sounds like it provides the complete picture of what they see and do.

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