Excerpt: STARMEN by Francis Hamit: Support the Kickstarter

Following the conclusion of a successful Kickstarter campaign, Francis Hamit and his editor offer another excerpt from STARMEN for your reading pleasure.  (Francis has also offered some future excerpts as well.  Keep an eye out for their announcement.)

But before we get to the genre  goodness, lets learn a little bit more about the author –  Francis Hamit:

FRANCIS HAMIT is the son of a US Army surgeon and his wife, a nurse.  He was exposed to the Scientific Method at an early age, grew up mostly on and around military bases, and became a science fiction fan and avid reader in Seventh Grade.  He attended middle school at Georgetown Day in Washington, DC, and graduated from Tamalpais High School in the Bay Area in 1963, where he studied Theatre.  He continued those studies in college, along with Business Administration.  He attended the University of Iowa’s Drama Department where his extracurricular activities included public service as an undercover police operative gathering intelligence about drug dealers.  A course in Playwriting changed the direction of his life and he became a writer.  His undercover work exposed, he took a sabbatical in the U.S. Army Security Agency for four years.  He served in Vietnam and West Germany, where he became an Army journalist.  Returning to Iowa City, he joined the Iowa Writers Workshop and supported himself by working as a professional photographer and then as an industrial/commercial real estate broker while getting a MFA in Fiction.  He moved to Chicago, where he worked in Industrial Security and as a freelance journalist.  His work for the Encyclopaedia Britannica exposed him to some great spy stories.  One of them was about the poet, playwright and spy Christopher Marlowe, and another was about Confederate spy Belle Boyd.  He developed these ideas into screenplays and novels while also writing hundreds of articles for trade magazines and other publications.  He worked in hotel security, where he found Fandom at a WindyCon.  It was the first of 113 conventions for him.  He moved to Los Angeles to be closer to the Entertainment Industry, and joined LASFS   It was there that he met Leigh Strother-Vien. She has been his roommate, best friend, editor and business partner for 34 years.   The past few years have been spent with ill health caused by his military service, but he has continued to write and publish.  He has also initiated film productions and published novels, short stories and articles.  He is at times a consultant.   At 79 his life is still a work in progress. You can find his Amazon Author Account here

Of his novel, the author has the following to say:

My mixed genre novel STARMEN is an embarrassment of riches when it comes to excerpts.  It’s about 190,000 words long and incorporates alternative post Civil War history, quantum mechanics, Apache Indian myths and some rather nasty Aliens.  It begins in 1875 El Paso, Texas at the Pinkerton National Detective Agency.  Some of the detectives are witches.  So are some of the Apaches.  There are also some romance elements. And politics. 


An Excerpt from STARMEN by Francis Hamit –

About three weeks after Jim Frazer left El Paso, Emily McLean came to Blake Tilman’s

boarding house carrying a thick folder of papers. It was about three in the afternoon. The day

was hot and dry despite threatening rainclouds overhead. Emily’s demeanor was prim except for

a hidden half smile. Her hair was wild and uncombed, made that way by the winds.

They sat in the parlor under the watchful eye of Sookie, the Negro woman who was the

cook and housekeeper. Emily had the advantage of looking older than she was, with a long face,

narrow nose, very full sensuous lips, and dark brown eyes curtained by long lashes. Her body

was strong and slender.

Tilman rose to meet her, somewhat annoyed that his day of study and reflection was

interrupted. But he was gracious. It was hardly her fault that Harry McLean was no respecter of

boundaries, and considered all Pinkerton detectives in his branch always ‘on call’.

Emily got right to the point.

“These seem to be papers that Jim Frazer left behind, Uncle Blake. Daddy did not know

if they have any value or should be sent on to him. He told me to ask you about it.”

Tilman examined the loose pages. All seemed to be drafts of papers that Frazer planned

to submit to the Transactions of The Royal Society. They were written in pencil with scratch

outs, words crowded in to make a thought or phrase more clear, and erasures. A few seemed to

be in some kind of code. One was a large sheet folded to a fourth of its open size. A diagram or

drawing, its borders an almost perfect circle. He smoothed it flat on the brown wooden table he

was using as a writing desk. Then turned it around. Emily stood up and looked at it, too.

“What is it?” She leaned closer, their bodies not quite touching.

“Some kind of chart. Probably of the night sky.” He pointed at one six-pointed symbol.

“I think that might be the North Star.”

“Really? How do you know?”

“I was a sailor when I was your age. You learn to navigate by the stars. It’s how you get

home if you are out of sight of land. Otherwise you are lost, sometimes forever.”

Emily nodded. “Daddy said you would know what to do.”

Tilman felt very unsure about that. Frazer had been reticent about the details of his vision

quest, as he had been about the big balloon and its details, implying an obligation to keep secrets,

but for whom, he did not say. Some part of the British Government, obviously, but which? The

so-called Ethnographic Survey, or that never mentioned secret service that sometimes used it as


Who was honest, open, cheerful, yet so secretive and hidden, Jim Frazer, anyway? It

was, as was said so many times in the Pinkerton office, “a matter for further investigation”. That

catch phrase was becoming something of a sour joke among the detectives.

Tilman touched the chart again. Drawn from memory, that most unreliable of narrators,

yet very significant. And leaving behind a copy and the other notes was very careless of Frazer,

who was not a careless man. There were fireplaces everywhere in the McLean house where they

could have been burned in a few minutes. Was that omission an accident? Perhaps not.

Regardless, he had them now, and must do something with them. Funds had been

received from Elmer Washburn, the Chief of the United States Secret Service, for unnamed

purposes, after their diligence in reporting the visit of the big balloon with Rose Green in charge

of an expedition with dubious intent. The Pinkerton Agency was diligent and made inquiries

after it had left El Paso, but it could not be found. No trace on either side of the border, despite

the efforts of the Army’s Apache Scouts and their counterparts similarly employed by the

Mexican Government, not even a crashed vessel with the bleached bones of its crew, much less

the traveling circus used for cover.

Now Jim Frazer, who might or might not be a British secret agent, had left behind

documents that might or might not be another part of the puzzle. Tilman, feeling a headache

coming on, groaned softly, looked up and saw Emily staring at him. He collected himself.

“Of course, you can also use a sextant to find your latitude and tell the time by the

position of the sun, but that’s no help if you are in the midst of a raging storm, hanging on for

dear life, trying not to let the next wave sink you. Then the stars are the only friend you have.”

Emily fluttered her eyelids and clasped her hands theatrically. “My, sir, you do have a

way with words. You should write poetry.”

Tilman rolled his eyes. She laughed.

“Seriously, Uncle Blake. What am I to do with these? Daddy say postage is too

expensive. And it’s not really trash, is it?”

“Leave them with me, I will see what I can make of them.” Tilman said, rose and

escorted her to the door. There he leaned over and whispered, “Uncle Blake, is it? Where does

that come from?”

Emily smiled, “Well, sir, a respectable young lady would never visit a man alone who is

not some kind of relative. It would be a scandal at my school. So Uncle Blake you are, outside

the office. Just a bit of cover.” She reached out and touched him briefly, her eyes gone suddenly


“Be well, Uncle. I will take my leave” she said and nodded politely towards Sookie

Grimes. Tilman smiled. She knew the arts of deception needed by a good detective. He opened

the door for her and saw her horse waiting in the street. Its reins had been dropped and touched

the ground but it did not wander. Jim Frazer had trained it for her, another skill he’d acquired

during his time with the Apaches. She grabbed its mane, lifted herself into the saddle, waved,

and trotted off. It was not the sidesaddle polite society demanded that respectable women use

and was more hindrance than not in an emergency. Emily’s long divided long skirts allowed her

to straddle her mount for better control. It was a small scandal at her school but catty talk from

schoolmates simply rolled off her back. McLean’s daughters were the talk of El Paso. That was

something that would pass. And McLean did not care.

He thought about what she had said, and wondered once more about the wisdom of Harry

McLean bringing his daughters into the work. They did need female detectives, and Emily, at

just fifteen years of age, was now fully vetted, with solved cases under her belt, and a Pinkerton

National Detective Agency badge and a five shot revolver in her handbag. Not an indulgence on

Harry’s part, nor an act of desperation. Young girls like Emily were excellent detectives because

they were close observers and saw everything. Regarded as slow and somewhat stupid by most

men, they disappeared from view into the background, and could go where men could not

without notice. Her mother had trained her well. There was a hope that Emily could be used to

assure other young women seeking employment with Pinkerton’s that they would be respected.

If the Branch Manager’s own daughter was so employed, it had to be respectable work.

He came back to see Sookie staring at the chart, puzzled. She turned and flashed a big

false smile at him. “She really your niece?”

Tilman, deciding that honesty is always he best policy when silence alone will not serve,

said, “Not really. Pinkerton’s is much like a family and I’m fond of her, but she’s one of Harry’s

daughters. Emily, the middle one.”

“Thais good, ‘cause she look nothing like you. More Italian than Scot.”

“Her mother’s Italian. Born in Milan, I believe.”

“Oh. I think I know who you mean. I maybe met her at the mercado? Sophia? Fine

looking woman. Very elegant. Surprised she do her own shopping.”

“She’s particular about food. Does her own cooking, too.”

Sookie tilted her head, pursed her lips and said, “You want to be careful with that one.”

“Why do you say that?” Tilman thought he knew the answer.

“She flirting with you. Got eyes for you.”

“She has eyes for anything in pants,” Tilman said. “She’s at that age.”

Sookie laughed long and hard. Tilman joined in.

“Seriously, I had a daughter. She would be about that age now. So a girl that age has no

appeal for me. I am ‘in loco parentis’ with her. Some lines you never cross.”

“Never, eh? Many men say dat but cross anyways. But not you.” Sookie flashed her big

white smile again.

“Of course not. I’m a Pinkerton.”

Sookie nodded, pretending to believe him, and pointed to a symbol on the chart to change

the subject. “What dat?”

Tilman bent over and looked. There were several such, aligned like a flight of birds.

“They appear to be men. Warriors. Flying.”

“Men flying? How? Be dey witches?” She looked more concerned than frightened.

“Perhaps. It’s of something Jim saw that is said to be over ten thousand years old.

Nothing for you to worry about.”

“I dunno. Bible say the Earth is only six thousand years old, so how can that be?”

Tilman looked at her and saw a sly person hiding her intelligence rather than a true

believer, but this was no time for a theological discussion. And he had work to do.

“Well, probably not. It’s a matter for further investigation. And if you don’t mind…”

Sookie smiled, bowed slightly, and retreated out the door, leaving Tilman staring at the

chart, trying to align it with what he recalled of the night sky. Finally, after supper, he went

outside and looked for himself. The sky was clear and the stars bright, but the chart looked off

somehow. He went back and consulted the notes Frazer had left behind. Some of the words

seemed unfamiliar, and he wondered if buying a book on astronomy might help him.

William Pinkerton, who shared the management of the growing agency with his brother

Robert, now that their famous father had retired, thought that El Paso had a promising future.

Tilman was beginning to settle in and the local Pinkerton enterprise was beginning to feel more

like a family affair. Harry McLean, having brought his family down from Denver and purchased

a huge rambling house on the edge of town, seemed like a man who’d finally found his place in

life away from Chicago’s savage winters. He’d said as much at Sunday dinner the week before.

And the Pinkerton National Detective Agency was needed there. McLean made the case by

stating what everyone there already knew. They could see it with their own eyes.

El Paso was now so lawless that murders and robberies frequently went unaddressed by the

authorities, overwhelmed by the task of keeping the city from descending into complete anarchy.

“There is great opportunity here, Mister Tilman. Great opportunity. A bonanza awaits

us. Our only challenge will be how to manage the onslaught.” McLean leaned back in his

comfortable chair, at the head of the long table in the dining room of the hacienda that had once

belonged to an Alcade. Quite the nicest house he’d ever owned, he said more than once.

Tilman wondered if the expansive attitude came from the wine McLean was drinking or

he was just being happily domesticated, basking in the presence of his beautiful wife and three

daughters seated on one side of the long ceramic topped wooden table that had come with the

house and the company of his guests seated on the other. These included Captain John Pershing,

of the 9th

US Cavalry and his counterpart from the other side of the border, El Capitan Emmanual

Hernandez-Hernandez DeSilva (“Call me ‘Manny’,” he said when introducing himself) of the

Mexican Federal Police.

Manny and the oldest McLean daughter, Molly, who now ran the day-to-day business of

the El Paso office, were eyeing each other cautiously. Not flirting but interested in each other.

Pershing, who Molly also acknowledged, was at that moment more interested in his food. He’d

just finished another long patrol into ‘Indian country’ with his company of Negro troopers.

` Also present was William Pinkerton’s oldest son, William II, called “Bill” to distinguish

him from his father. Now assigned to the El Paso office to learn how to run a branch of his own.

Not old enough for such a job at eighteen, but quick to learn, tall, slender and itching to go to the

field. His pretty, but dour, new wife Mary sat next to him, looking around, her nose slightly

tilted, even more determined than his father to keep Bill close to the office and away from


A North Shore rich girl born to privilege, she was a stranger to El Paso and the detective

business, and wondered at first why Harry McLean had her going to Mildred’s Tea and Crumpets

to listen to gossip. But she soon realized that this was a better source of business intelligence

than any newspaper. So she looked and listened and got into the spirit of it, She was envious of

Emily’s and Molly’s Pinkerton badges and revolvers and wanted the same for herself, and was

quite put out when Harry McLean told her that these had to be earned in the field. Mildred’s was

not the field. Being in the field implied risk, skill and discretion. Emily and Molly had learned

these. Mary had not.

Tilman hoped that young Bill’s presence would allow him to go in search of some danger

of his own. Being a ‘boss’ was something he abhorred. He could do it well enough, but it did

not give him pleasure. Profit and loss and schedules were not engaging enough for his quick

mind. He missed the field and the challenges that went with it.

As he looked at the people at that Sunday dinner, chatting, he felt even more like a

stranger, as if he were on some fresh assignment trying to discern the players in a new case. It

reminded him of the society swells he’d mingled with in New York, cordial, but never really

friends he could trust.

The business has gotten too big, he said to himself. Too big for me anyway. And he’d

come West to escape polite society. He wanted to once more be in the more natural world like

Henry David Thoreau in “Walden”. He quite envied Jim Frazer for having so successfully

infiltrated the Apaches for his ethnographic study,

Harry McLean’s genial manner, necessary for keeping Pinkerton business, and the

comfortable Sunday dinners, were eroding his edge, making him less on his guard.

He looked around the table again. It was very comfortable but there was a hidden purpose as

well, and the men soon rose and went into another room with comfortable chairs to smoke.

Manny and Pershing took chairs next to each other, looking around at the paintings on the wall

that had come with the house. Dramatic battle scenes mixed with more pastoral images.

McLean and Tilman took chairs opposite with young Bill Pinkerton standing near the door and

Jesus Martinez at the far end, unfolding a large piece of paper. Molly McLean, notebook in

hand, sat next to him, ready to take notes. Cigars and pipes were lit and the meeting began.

McLean spoke first: “Several months ago a large quantity of U.S. gold coins and currency

disappeared form the offices and vault of the Adams Express Company here. There were twelve

wooden chests, bound in brass, that were removed under the cover of darkness. How, we do not

know. No locks were broken and the Adams Express guard had a sudden attack of the trots that

took him elsewhere. Last month the manager of that Adams Express office retired suddenly and

moved to Ciudad Juarez where, it turns out, he owns a large hacienda he purchased several years

ago for more cash than his salary would have been over a period of years. This excited our

suspicions and we, as the security and protective agents for Adams Express, decided to inquire

further. We had only rumors and supposition, and the man had taken a new identity as Don

Francisco DeVega. Again, something he established over several years. He is part of a group of

former Confederate officers allied with Judah Benjamin, who proposes to build a second

transcontinental railway, this time across Mexico. They are also assimilating into the local

Mexican political scene as a way to gain and hold power. Do I have that right, Manny?”

The Mexican officer nodded. “They are part of a Mexican secret society, a Masonic lodge called

the Yorkinos after the York rite practiced mostly in England,”

“The bloody Masons again,” Tilman muttered, and then remembered that Harry McLean

wore a Masonic pin. “That a problem for you, Boss?”

“Not my Lodge,” McLean said, “And we don’t tolerate criminality.”

Manny continued, pausing a moment to absorb what had been said.

“I’m a Yorkino myself,” he said. “It’s one way to advance in government in Mexico, and

the reason I am already a Captain, chosen over many more senior men, but that is simply how we

do things in Mexico. Favors for friends.”

Pershing cracked a smile. “Should I leave now to avoid hearing things I should not


Manny chuckled.

McLean spoke quietly. “No, Captain Pershing. This is part of our contract for secret

service with the U.S. Government and you are Elmer Washburn’s man in El Paso. Our plan will

require the participation of you and some of your men. Captain DeSilva cannot participate in the

raid we plan.”

“The Yorkinos have no knowledge of the stolen gold, which was supposed to be sent on

to Fort Bliss,” Manny explained. “If they did, they would seize it for themselves as a legitimate

prize of war. They consider themselves still at war with the United States. They want their

Confederacy revived.”

Tilman nodded. “The next presidential election may give them a shot at that anyway if

Mister Tilden is elected. Everyone is tired of Reconstruction and wants it to end.”

“Pray for Hayes,” Molly said.

“Pray for los negroes,” Manny said. That earned him a brief smile from Molly.

“I prefer to lead Negro troops here than White ones there,” Pershing added, also seeking a

smile from her. “They are serious soldiers, grateful for their freedom and committed to serving

the Nation. White ones in the South are now policemen and often brutal in their enforcement of

the laws. This has caused resistance not just among former slave owners, but other white men

who also want back the myth that has grown up about the so-called ‘Lost Cause.’ ”

Molly favored him with a brilliant, admiring smile, obviously enjoying having two strong

military men in competition for her favors. Emily, ever watchful, had her head down, and the

looked up, directly at Tilman in a way that he found a bit unnerving. It was the look a much

older woman might give her secret lover.

Yet another reason to get back to the field.

McLean, deciding his daughters’ love lives could wait, barged ahead. “Anyway, formal

representations to the Mexican government are not going to get us the gold back. So we are

going to steal it back.”

Jesus Martinez stepped forward with the crude map he’d drawn.

“The house is a big one with many servants, all of whom are fanatically loyal to El Patron, except

for one. A serving girl named Elsa who used to be his favorite. He recently pushed her aside and

has a new favorite.”

“Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned,” Tilman said.

Jesus nodded. “He was, when he drank, very forthcoming about his embezzlements and

other crimes. He was also selling information to some of the hold-up gangs.”

Manny smiled. “In Mexico, if this became known, it would increase his reputation. Even

the French who did not go home after Maximilian was shot appreciate a clever man. But a clever

man is not a greedy man. A clever man shares his largesse. Gives them a taste. This he has not

done. So when the gold disappears there is no one who he will be able to tell. Not without

provoking an investigation.”

Jesus said, “He is planning a fiesta this weekend. All of his people will be drinking, even

those who guard the room.”

“Describe the room.”

“It’s at the end of a long hallway, only one door, no windows, full of old furniture. They

will take that out to use at the fiesta. The chests are stacked at one side.”

Pershing said, “That’s a lot of weight. And quite a distance to walk. Can you provide


Manny shook his head. “My part in this cannot be known. I am betraying a lodge brother.

They would expel me and I would lose my patronage and protection. Besides, I will be attending

the event.”

He smiled at Molly, “Perhaps the lovely senorita would like to come with me?”

Her head snapped up at the unexpectedness of this. She frowned. “We’ll talk later.”

McLean frowned as well. He did not like this at all. But Molly was eighteen and her own person


Tilman smiled. “Perhaps I should go as well?”

Manny shrugged., “And bring Emily? Why not?”

Tilman thought, trapped, hoisted by my own petard! You smooth bastard.

McLean shook his head. “She’s only fifteen.”

“And you have only yourself to blame if she wants in,” Molly said, “You gave her a badge

and a gun.”

There it is again, Tilman thought, feminism writ large.

Harry McLean looked as if he’d swallowed something disagreeable. He moved on.

“Table that for later. How many troopers will you need?”

Pershing thought carefully. “About half my unit, but perhaps all of them; security, horses, a

wagon, it’s a lot to lay on.”

“How much will it cost?” Manny asked.

“Silence is expensive,” Pershing replied. “At least enough to get each of them that forty

acres and a mule they were promised and never got. What is your end?”

Manny looked up at the ceiling as if seeking divine guidance.

”Keep it simple. One chest will stay with me. I will pay some expenses here from that.”

“A clever man shares the bounty?”

“It’s called ‘morbida’. The bite. One of our finer cultural traditions.” Manny smiled and

relit his thin brown cigar.

And so it was agreed, even the part about McLean’s two older daughters attending the

fiesta. The event was a coming of age ceremony for the target’s oldest daughter, who was herself

turning fifteen. McLean hoped that Emily would not suddenly want such a party for herself, but

she never brought it up. She was Scots/Italian, not Mexican, and that birthday had already passed.

Nor was she looking for a husband. A lover perhaps, but the only man who attracted her had too

much rectitude to engage with her that way. Stiff as a board. The harder she tried, the stiffer he

got. She needed a new way to entice him. One that did not invite scandal.

Emily McLean did not know why she was so taken with Blake Tilman. The sight of him

made her breathing shallow and her heart beat faster it was true, but Jim Frazer, especially after his

transformation into an Apache warrior, had a similar effect. But Jim still had a boyishness about

him and Tilman had the kind of solid character that she admired in men like her father.

That he was so damaged by the war and the loss of his wife and daughter that he had retreated into

his books and studies was a barrier that she would have to surmount. .

She had grown up with war and tragedy, as a Pinkerton girl from the start.

Transcendentialist principles informed her life. Not just the mysterious writings of the Bhaht Gita

and the Kama Sutra and other oriental philosphies but the quiet radicalism of Emerson. Thoreau

and other giants of the American movement.

Finding suitable lovers, much less a husband to spend one’s life with was a problem.

Molly was more eager than she. She took more risks. Emily saw little point in boys her age. Or

Molly’s. She felt no desire towards most men, even other Pinkerton detectives. Most were too

stupid and brutal. The ones with refinement usually preferred other men, something that anyone

who knew Walt Whitman could not be surprised at. So this was a quandary for Emily McLean

until the day she met Blake Tilman and felt her face flush and her heart beat faster. Age difference

be damned, this was the man for her.

But how to proceed? A question that she pondered as she played her violin or worked on

the Branch accounts and billing or went for long rides in the country alone. Blake was a mystery.

Until her mother taught her some spells and meditations that allowed her to see the situation from

above and clearly.

In later years Blake would say that she had bewitched him. He didn’t know the half of it.


If you liked this excerpt, why not take a moment and check out the author’s crowd funding project on Goodreads.

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