January 1864. The Civil War has raged across the nation for years, touched everyone, and taken its bloody toll on the Union and Confederacy. The missing, wounded and killed number in the thousands and the count continues to rise. When John G. Slover enlisted as a Private in the 3rd Wisconsin Cavalry, he never expected to find himself on the Kansas plains fighting Indians as well as Confederate guerilla units. Through his daily entries in a saddlebag diary we can read what he endured and from his view better understand the misery of the time.
The Alvin Museum Society received the John G. Slover diary in a weathered, ragged state and has spent years transcribing it to share with the public.Through the Storms: The John G. Slover Diaryprovides a unique opportunity to follow him from birth in New York, through the Civil War, and onto his death in Alvin, Texas where he was a pioneer member of the community.
The Alvin Museum Societyof Alvin, Texas is a non-profit organization and appreciates your support by purchasing this non-fiction book. All proceeds go to the Society. Researchers, Civil War era historians, and lovers of history will enjoy this work for the insight it provides.
Aside from battling the flu, allergies, and miserable weather like everyone else, I’ve maintained a busy schedule these past seven months. I completed the writing of my YA novel, Mr. Charon, edited the work until I grew cross-eyed, and then fought off anxiety attacks while beta readers reviewed it. Along with my volunteer activities to assist children with their reading skills at an elementary school in my community, I was asked to coach a Second Grade Creative Writing Team for their participation in UIL (University Interscholastic League) competition. And this was all followed with a fantastic literature project in which AP (Advanced Progress) high school seniors reviewed my novel, Mr. Charon, and provided their insights on the young adult book.
Looking back, I realize how valuable those experiences were to me (regardless of the long hours and anxieties.) Mr. Charon is now off to the editor and publisher for their reviews, the second graders bravely stepped forward and took part in the UIL competition, and the AP high school students renewed my faith in the existence of intelligence during the teen years. Their candid reviews were excellent feedback for an author.
While I cannot speak much about my YA novel, Mr. Charon, because it must undergo further trials and await an official public debut, I can say that the book was received exceptionally well by all ‘test’ audiences and I’m eager for its release.
With regard to my reading and mentoring volunteer work and Creative Writing coaching with elementary children, I reaped many rewards. The children’s smiles alone are worth their weight in gold. This is my fifth year of volunteering to work with elementary school children. It affords me the opportunity to be involved with our educational process (to a degree) both as an observer and participant. I’m able to interface with sincerely dedicated and wonderful teachers who struggle within the constraints of low pay, restricted resources, and increasing testing and educational demands on their time. But most of all, I’m hopefully touching at least one child in a way that will spur them on to be far more than they ever dreamed possible in their lives.
As for the AP high school students—well, I was truly impressed. They took the literature project seriously, wrote their reviews with thought, and expressed their opinions with maturity (often far more than I’ve seen in reviews of various authors’ works on social media outlets.) During my recent morning talk with the students and their teacher, I observed the positive connection and educated environment between them, and how such supported their individual growths. That was accomplished through love, dedication, and the professionalism of their teacher.
When I returned to being a novelist after a career in security management, I never realized how many personal rewards I would receive or the doors that would be opened to me because of it. And I purposely left teachers unnamed in this writing for fear of overlooking someone, but I’m confident they will know I’m speaking about them if they read this.
Pay it forward. I’m a strong proponent of volunteering in your community to help others. Everyone has a talent they can share. It’s simply a matter of finding a spot in the world where your skills and kindness can best be applied. At the elementary school where I volunteer, I’m only one of many.
In hindsight, I want to apologize to my own teachers of long ago for the misery I dealt them while a student. I’m sure I was responsible for many of them needing therapy, developing a drinking problem or drug dependence. But, to the one that said I would never accomplish anything in my life—I proved you wrong many times over….
When I asked “Ringo” DeLeon, President of the Texas Gang Investigators Association, why he worked in a gang unit, the 26 year veteran and Sergeant from Corpus Christi P.D. never hesitated with his reply: “I hate bullies.” Short, to the point, yet prolific when given thought.
Say the word “Bully” and generally the first image that comes to mind is of a punk kid at school harassing a quiet, mild mannered kid. Bullies come in all shapes, sizes and sexes. They can be a boy or girl, young or old, man or woman, an individual or a group, from any race, and be rich or poor. Last year several incidents occurred with upper-middle-class high school girls bullying female classmates to the point that they committed suicide. They bullied because it made them feel good. Kids who enjoy bullying others are screwed up. Adults that enjoy bullying others are screwed up. That is the quick Psych 101 course synopsis.
Who says I need an education?
Bullying ranges from schoolyard intimidation to spousal abuse to drug cartels’ murderous acts. Yes, drug cartels are bullies, dangerous bullies, but bullies nonetheless.
So, how does this relate to gangs? Simple. Gangs are just another level of bullies that get off on violence toward others in order to achieve their goals—and they feed off of the fears of everyone they come in contact with. Power and Control: the key essence of gangs.
Do you have gang problems in your neighborhood, community, or city? The answer is ‘yes’, only you may not be aware of the full extent of their presence. If you answered ‘no’ then you either live atop a mountain in a monastery or you keep your head buried in the sand to avoid accepting reality. Some towns and cities have gang presence more than other regions, but the problem is out there and it’s all too real.
There were 850 attendees at the Texas Gang Investigators Association (TGIA) conference held the week of June 23rd in San Antonio, Texas. The men and women came from local, state, and federal law enforcement agencies. Their ranks varied as much as the sizes of their departments. While some attendees were from formal, dedicated gang units, others were from patrol divisions whereby you have to be the “Jack-of-All-Trades and Master of None.”
TGIA provides them with 31 continuing education hours for their state license, up to date training, and the latest intel on the evolution of gangs and cartels. The criminal world of gangs is a constantly changing environment that requires continual modification of law enforcement tactics.
Novels by Glenn Starkey
TGIA honored me for the third year in a row by inviting me back to sign and sell my books, and be with my former brotherhood. It was an honor I definitely do not take lightly.
Throughout my two days at the conference I met old friends, made new friends, and happily learned I had loyal readers of my novels anxiously awaiting more. Erik Larson, the author of Lone Star Daybreak and an attendee of the conference, was present and we had a great talk about the world in general. But with each conversation held, I casually asked a question to get a general consensus: “What do you think is the main problem coming from gangs?” The basis of every answer was always related to drugs—drug cartels, drug money, drug deals, drug transport, and drug violence.
Small gangs primarily finance their growth through drug sales and consolidating territorial controls through mutually benefitting agreements with other gangs. As they grow, their operations expand into human trafficking, prostitution, robberies, fraud, home invasions, burglary, auto theft, murder and assassination contracts, alien
smuggling, extortion, and more. They recruit teenage girls through the Internet then force them into prostitution, using them locally, or trading and selling them off to other gangs across the country. Runaways are excellent targets, grabbed off the streets of major cities and most are never seen again.
Forced Prostitution and Human Trafficking
How can law enforcement compete against the high flow of drug money? Cocaine alone is a $30 billion a year business. Most agencies can barely fund their principal divisions of patrol and detectives, much less specialized units such as gangs. Citizens don’t realize that the majority of law enforcement agencies in America consist of 30-50 personnel at the most, if they are fortunate to have that many. And the temptation of making more money in a few hours than you will make in a year has been the downfall of many a man and woman.
Ever heard of “narcotecture?” Cartel drug kings have so much money that like the super rich oil Arabs who make everything from gold, including their commodes, the Cartel kings have special made mausoleums constructed with imported Italian Marble, gold fixtures, and air-conditioning. Air-conditioning! For a mausoleum! These incredibly ornate tombs started the term “narcotecture.”
America is the largest consumer of drugs. Coke (not to be mistaken with the drinking kind) is a social drug used at every level of our society – government officials, businessmen, the entertainment industry, clergy, and on down to street level punks. Gangs can easily make $30-40k per day selling coke. Profit is turned so fast that it’s ridiculous.
A kilo of coke in Columbia is $2,000. By the time it gets to users in the States, it’s been cut so many times that there is easily a $100,000 profit. Combine drug money with the cash flow from other gang operations (prostitution, fraud, drug transport, and so forth), and the average citizen cannot begin to comprehend the extent of money that gangs have at their disposal.
“Everyone has a price” is the belief of gangs and cartels. Judges have been bought. Lawyers are retained by gangs. Federal agents and law enforcement at state and local levels have been caught selling out to gangs. If people in these prominent positions can be bought, then how can we expect a jobless person with a family, struggling to support them, to turn away from a high dollar offer for only a few hours work?
2014 TGIA Conference Coin
Unfortunately, there are still people in denial about how serious the gang problem across America is and how relationships between gangs and cartels are so heavily intertwined. America’s war on drugs is only viewed as successful by government officials with little grasps on reality or are trying to keep their jobs. The Secretary of Homeland Security testified before Congress that our borders were completely safe. Talk to the dedicated men and women in law enforcement who daily risk their lives and you’ll learn that fighting the drug war, stemming the flow of drugs, is similar to going to the beach and trying to hold back the waves of the ocean. You hold back part of one wave while the remainder simply flows around you.
All along the US border, ranchers live in daily fear of gang organized drug caravans coming across their land. South Texas Sheriffs have testified to the overwhelming problems their departments face with the increasing violence against families living along the border.
The gang problem only continues to grow. A majority of gangs outside of prison are controlled by gangs within our prisons. Gangs such as MS-13, who pride themselves on merciless revenge and cruel retributions, send enforcers to their upstart gangs throughout the states to teach them how to properly be members. Other words, how to be more vicious.
The times have definitely changed. The codes that criminals such as the old Mafia families lived by are long gone. Now gangs are comprised of younger, more restless thugs who view violence as the ultimate action. The drug cartels murdered 35,000 people in Juarez, Mexico in the last four years. Innocent people were killed and have disappeared. Decapitation became a cartel gang trademark. Stateside gangs wanting to be like the “big-boys,” have followed suit even to the point of making ‘snuff videos’ of their murders.
Do the research yourself if you still believe there isn’t a problem. In Houston, you can go to Stop Houston Gangs.org and view some of the gangs we have. It’s nothing to be proud of, but it’s reality.
Gangs are bullies. They serve no purpose in life except to further destroy our society like a cancer spreading through one’s body. They make whole communities live in fear. They steal, rob, and murder innocent people. They cost taxpayers billions of dollars yearly. And they respect nothing but further violence.
What can be done about gangs? First, understand there is a problem. Support your local law enforcement by reporting suspicious activities in your neighborhoods. Talk to your neighbors and watch out for each other.
Keep your children away from gangs as best possible by talking to your kids, letting them know they are loved and encourage their education in schools. Go to
Stop Gang Violence
their schools and talk to administrators about school bullies. The school boards generally flat deny that any problem exists, but when you are persistent, they will act—even if it means you must go to the media about the school board. When your kids think being “gangsta” is cool, let them know what losers “gangstas” really are. And most of all, pay attention to what your kids do on the Internet. Be a parent before being their ‘buddy.’ Don’t let your child commit suicide before you learn a problem existed.
Like “Ringo” DeLeon, I hate bullies too.
* * * *
Texas Gang Investigators Association
Before I close, I wish to express my gratitude to the men and women of the Texas Gang Investigators Association for the dangerous work they daily perform on behalf of the citizens of our great state, as well as for our magnificent country. Teachers and law enforcement related personnel do not receive adequate payment for the critically important work they do, especially when compared to the frivolous mega-salaries of sports figures today.
Organizing an educational, informative conference such as the Board of T.G.I.A. does each year, is to be commended. The overall planning involved is astounding and the Board’s efforts are displayed in the quality of their conference.
Thank you, Mr. Ringo DeLeon, President of T.G.I.A., Mr. Patrick Natividad, 2nd Vice President of T.G.I.A., and Mr. Paul Zamarripa, Director, Pos.1, South Region, of T.G.I.A., for your friendship, hospitality, and my further education into the world of gangs.
And special thanks go to Mrs. Janelle Zamarippa and Mrs. Natividad for our discussions and the work I observed you tirelessly perform each day for the benefit of T.G.I.A.
You never know what you will see at a gang conference…
There’s no greater surprise than checking bookseller websites and seeing that your latest novel has been released two weeks ahead of schedule without your knowledge!
Amazon Moonis my fourth published work and my first journey into a bit of sci-fi. Each of my novels is different in setting and characterizations. I haven’t yet settled upon the making of a series. First, I want to get all of the stories out of my head I’ve wanted to write for years—then I’ll decide which characters are calling me to return to them. At the moment, John Alvarez from Amazon Moon is summoning the loudest…
John Alvarez was a bad boy—so bad that a judge finally gave him a choice between prison and the Marines, yet in the Corps he discovered a home. Shipped off to Vietnam, he leads his own band of bad boys—Iron Raven, the terror of their enemies and always the first choice for a dangerous mission. On one such mission, the brain child of a couple of CIA ops, Alvarez and his squad are cut off from escape by their CIA handlers and are left to fight their own way out or die. Only Alvarez survives, and his revenge on the men who abandoned him and his friends, lands him in prison for life.
After twenty years he’s offered freedom, but only if he agrees to undertake another suicide mission: to act as bodyguard for a Mr. Standish on a journey into a mysterious Amazon kingdom ruled by the devil himself. It is only in the heart of the jungle that Alvarez discovers he is on a mission that can only have two endings—redemption or death.
As I previously wrote in my blog My Journey with Amazon Moon, this novel led me down many paths and I encourage you to read the blog before reading the novel.
“Amazon Moon is the sort of novel that grabs you by the throat on the first page and doesn’t let go until the last. It is an exciting story and, at the same time, something more. It is a fable about one man’s redemption, his rediscovery of innocence.”
Nicholas Guild – New York Times Best Selling Author – The Assyrian, Blood Star, The Berlin Warning, The President’s Man …
“With Amazon Moon, Starkey has done it again– lured me in, set me up and wrung me out! Splendid.”
I am proud to have the endorsements of Amazon Moon by two fine authors: Nicholas Guild and Jeff Mudgett. Guildhas a long list of literary accomplishments and equally long list of prominent literary reviews and is what I consider to be, my mentor. To have the honor of him reading my work is quite a feat, but for him to write an endorsement and give approval of my novel is beyond words to me. Mudgett is a fine author whose novel Bloodstains (about his serial-killer relative H. H. Holmes aka Jack-the-Ripper) is in the works to become a movie. I consider myself quite fortunate to have their endorsements.
In the next few days I will place samples of Amazon Moon on my website for all to read. I hope you will enjoy the novel, provide a review on it if you like it – and feel free to write me with any discussions you may have about the work.
Narcotics trafficking, human smuggling, weapons smuggling, home invasions, contract hits, prostitution, assault, theft, murder and prison are only part of the curriculum you undergo from the University of the Streets. In this school, passing grades on tests means you survived to live one more day. As for graduation, when you have to constantly watch your back because of the work you’re involved with, and you trust very few people (especially whatever they say), then you’ve earned an education few others will have.
Who are these graduates? They are the men and women of law enforcement and the criminal justice system who daily work in the world of violent gangs, organized crime, and prison systems. They are members of the Texas Gang Investigators Association, as well as hundreds of others across America in this field. They have my respect—and if you knew them as I do and knew what they daily endure, then they would earn yours too.
I was recently invited to the TGIA Conference in Houston to sign my books. It was my second year to be honored with an invitation by Paul Zamarripa, TGIA Director, Pos.1, South Region, and I wasn’t about to miss the opportunity. Although I never worked gangs while in law enforcement as they now do, we at least spoke a common language about the streets and life that most citizens will never comprehend, if they are fortunate. Old friends such as Patrick Natividad, TGIA 2nd Vice President, and others from last year stopped by to say hello and talk about my books they had bought. New friends were made too such as conference attendee Erik L. Larson, who I learned is also the author of “Lone Star Daybreak.”
The week-long conference always has a prestigious list of national speakers representing all levels from federal agencies to state and county offices. And the agenda covers—well, sorry, but that’s not open for public distribution. But, I am at liberty to discuss some of the gang related problems confronting law enforcement and our society today.
When I speak of ‘gangs’ I’m not simply talking about a group on motorcycles wearing their ‘colors,” or a group of ‘wannabe gangstas’ standing around with their baseball caps sideways, talking street trash, bobbing as they walk, and flashing gang hand-signs they made up. No, I’m discussing the organized, violent groups from Mexican drug cartels to every prison we have. They are located in rural areas, small towns, as well as major cities. These are the people psychologists would have a field day with trying to understand what makes them tick, all while our tax money and court systems must deal with their bloody crimes.
Where does the organization and leadership of these gangs stem from? Primarily, within our prisons. The prison gangs direct outside operations from the comfort of their cells. If and when released from prison, gang members connect with outside members, all while maintaining their inside connections. The majority of gangs have legitimate businesses for their money to flow through, and the spider-web of their organized crimes steadily expands right under everyone’s noses—often next door without your realization.
Houston Astros Logo
Where do they set up shop? Quick answer: everywhere. Operations are controlled from within our prisons, but a large segment of the gangs on the outside have left the big cities to set up shop in rural areas. Think about it a moment. Why stay in the big city where law enforcement has a multitude of resources to hound you, when you can move to smaller communities throughout the state that don’t have the budget or manpower to hamper your operations? If you stay under the radar by not drawing attention to yourself, you can do whatever you want, especially when you have the money to finance your operations. Most rural law enforcement agencies don’t have the budget to devote to a gang unit, nor are they really inclined to do so until forced into it. There is another unfortunate aspect to this too; dirty cops, those who work both sides of the street per say. I’m sorry, but it happens. Whether they were a federal agent on the border or a deputy riding desolate county roads, the intoxication of big bucks has been many a downfall.
So, who are these gangs? They are Tango Blasters, the Texas Syndicate, Barrio Azteca, the Texas Mexican Mafia, and more. The Tango Blasters were born in the 1990’s in Texas prisons and have rose to the largest gang membership. Some say 11,000 while other data places them at 14,000, even up to 100,000. To be a member, you have to have done prison time—but, there are the younger ‘Blasters’ that formed and haven’t done time yet. They want to be recognized, believe they can bypass the prison time rule for true membership, and do everything they can, drawing attention to themselves which is not the actual Tango Blaster modus operandi. Therefore, the ‘true’ Blasters have to come in, straighten them out by force, and teach them gang respect.
The Tango Blasters are organized, yet unorganized. They don’t have a formal structure, don’t believe in having rules, no one tells anyone what to do, yet they receive directions from their leaders in prison and remain an entity. Odd, isn’t it? They don’t have a specific leader in each affiliated gang outside of prison yet they are divided into ‘Blaster’ gangs in every major Texas City: Houstone (it’s spelled this way for a reason) or “H,” Dallas or “D,” San Antonio or ‘SA,” etc.
How do you recognize a Tango Blaster? This is another problem. You can’t unless you really know what you’re looking for. Their gang markings, or ‘tatts,’ are area code numbers or sports team logos of the major cities. For example, Houstone Blasters (the “e” is added on by the gang) use the Houston Astros star. They wear all the shirts and caps with the open sided star of the Astros baseball team for identification. That means they blend in with thousands of other Houstonians wearing the same regalia and tattoos! But look for the word “Houstone” and you are probably looking at a ‘Blaster.’
Rather than solely write about Tango Blasters, I want to mention another group I was surprised to learn of: Juggalos. Yes, you read correctly—and no, it doesn’t refer to a gang of big-breasted women.
Folks, you’re going to have to look this one up on the Internet. There are different levels of Juggalos which range from people that simply enjoy acting crazy while dressed as a clown, to the more radical ones who cause harm and commit crimes. Yes, again you read correctly. They paint their faces in the manner of a circus clown like the Joker in a Batman movie. Their logo or image is a clown running around carrying a meat clever. Women in the group are referred to as ‘Jugga-hos’… I thought I was being kidded when a man from the State Attorney General’s office began talking about Juggalos, but the group is real. Honest. Search “Juggalos” and see what I mean. They have ‘gatherings’ which have vague resemblances to the old days of Woodstock. (Warning: If you decide to perform an online search, don’t be surprised at the photos you will see. Due to some nudity, you may not want children around your computer when you get to the ‘gathering’ photos.)
So, what is the answer to gang violence other than obtaining your Concealed Handgun License?
There are multiple answers to this. Assist and support your local law enforcement agency by reporting crimes. Educate yourself on problems in your area. Talk to your neighbors. Watch out for each other. The Houston Police Department has a gang taskforce website where information can be submitted and you can learn more about the problems: www.StopHoustonGangs.org. Start becoming aware of the crime in your community. Don’t let the sides of your building be covered in gang graffiti. Report them to the police then paint over them. It may take several coasts of paint, but eventually the gangs will stop using the sides of your building or fence as a canvas. Whether you realize it or not, the majority of the crimes you hear about on your local news broadcast are related to gangs.
Gangs are violent. They infect our society and destroy our children. Anyone can be a victim. I read a news article about a 14 year-old boy walking by a house, pulled a pistol out and shot at the man sitting on a porch, rocking an infant. The bullet struck the baby, killed him, and passed through to the father’s shoulder. The boy wanted recognition in order to join a gang.
Gangs easily reach across borders and state lines. They smuggle humans, drugs and weapons. They promote forced prostitution, make contract hits, perform violent home invasions…the list goes on.
And don’t judge a book by its cover. Simply because someone has tattoos all over their body doesn’t make them a gang member or a member of the ‘Yakuza.’ I say this because one of the conference attendees was covered with ‘tatts’ except for a small portion of his face. My friend, Rhonda Chevalier, TGIA Director, Pos.1 of the Central Region said he was one of the politest men she had ever met.
Rhonda Chevalier and Attendee
One of the best ways to keep your children out of gangs is to love them, talk to them, educate them, let them know they are important, and let them know gangs are a dead-end street. According to an old LAPD statement, 60% of gang members will be dead or in prison by age 20.
Thank you, TGIA, for sponsoring such educational law enforcement conferences. I wish every department in Texas could send at least one representative. The knowledge is valuable.
“Burning the candle at both ends—and running out of candle!”
Well, that’s how I have felt these past five months. I finished my latest novel AMAZON MOON in December and a good friend, international best-selling author Nicholas Guild read the work and provided excellent recommendations. All I have to do is find enough hours in the day to make the modifications he suggested then the novel will be ready to move into publication.
The problem is that as Nick was receiving AMAZON MOON, I was asked to be the Security Director for a major industrial port. The previous Security Director had left for another job and they needed someone to handle operations and their large number of federal grant projects. Having retired as a Security Manager of a global oil corporation, this wasn’t my first rodeo. I refused the position full-time and said I would work for six months until they found a replacement. I also continue (it’s in my contract to allow me so) to volunteer working with school children each Tuesday to assist them with their reading skills. And (of course there’s more), along with my writings, I am the Secretary of my Masonic Lodge (a full-time position which I do in my “spare” time.)
I had a perfect storm of events collide. Suddenly, my book was ready to finalize, and I was up to my ears in a super tight schedule. Working with federal grant projects is about as enjoyable as performing a “Do-It-Yourself Root Canal,” plus the remainder of the security operations cannot be ignored. I have two Monday’s every week because I work Monday, am off Tuesday to work with the school kids, then return to work Wednesday (which feels like my second Monday because I’m trying to catch up from what I missed Tuesday.) I’m not totally off work on Tuesdays either because I still receive cellphone calls and have to jump on my laptop throughout the day to keep my workload flowing. And somewhere between all of that, my lodge duties come into play, plus I must write a monthly newsletter…more paperwork headaches.
As every author knows, maintaining a social media presence demands allotting time per day to various sites (particularly your own website.) If you don’t keep your published works out before the public, you are quickly forgotten. Fortunately, my author friends help keep me alive in those arenas by giving me an occasional plug. The indie community is truly wonderful! People on the opposite side of the world that you’ve never met become great friends.
But as all storms do, this one in my life shall pass too. At the end of May, my contract as Security Director will be complete. The school year will come to a close as well. And the lodge work, well, that will remain. Most importantly, I will return full force to my writings, finalize AMAZON MOON then begin the novels still patiently waiting within me to be written.
Now, if I can just find enough candle to burn until the storm passes…