I saw A’yahos, Seattle’s earthquake serpent spirit

Quileute charmIt isn’t often you come in contact with a spirit creature of ancient legends, is it? I know I can count the times it’s happened to me on the fingers of one hand. Well, actually just the thumb. But it did happen once, and I’ll never forget an instant of the experience–terrifying, mind-boggling, astonishing.

I was at my writing desk in the late morning of February 28, 2001, typing away at my latest novel, when the Nisqually Earthquake ripped loose at magnitude 6.8. My writing office was in a renovated attic room in my house. I recall a loud boom, as if a wrecking ball had hit the place. And I felt the entire house lurch sideways at the same moment.

The kind of panic that strikes when objects you consider immovable or almost so, like my heavy writing desk, heave sideways, carrying you along with them–that sort of panic only hits a person a few times in an entire lifetime. That must explain why I totally forgot the good earthquake advice I had been given since grade school, to drop, cover, and hold on.

Instead, I leapt from my chair before it had even settled and sprinted to the stairway, then down and out onto the back deck. Although ducking under my solid desk and waiting things out was the prudent course, I don’t regret my choice to evacuate post haste, because, you see, that’s what gave me the opportunity to meet A’yahos.

Tillicum AyahosI scurried to the deck’s back railing and held onto it with both hands while the house rocked back and forth, creaking, cracking, and groaning under the strain of the quake energy. Stable on my feet for the moment, I had a chance to look around and, man, what I saw!

The entire neighborhood was rolling like a series of waves underground, moving from the south (the direction of the quake’s origin near Tacoma) to the north, where Seattle would be rocked moments later and the Highway 99 viaduct would nearly collapse (it was later condemned and demolished).

What astonished me most was my neighbor’s yard. I could see his wide lawn rippling like a slithering serpent. Two big trees, one on each side of the yard, swayed like two crazy metronome pointers, swinging together, then apart, then together again in tune with the rolling of the ground swells. All this was accompanied by deep a thunderous rumble emanating from the depths of the earth!

Kwakiutl dancerThen it was over. The land settled and the neighborhood went back to its serene suburban balance. There might have been a dog barking, or a human voice somewhere far off, but peace had returned with little harm done to our home. Some small splits in walls and ceilings, a brick loosened in the chimney, but no major repairs needed. Elsewhere around the region, there were injuries from fallen objects and one death attributed to the quake. We got off easy.

But I’ll never forget the ripples underground or the accompanying thunder on the day I met A’yahos, the Duwamish Tribe’s legendary earthquake serpent spirit. I’m a believer now, because I saw him slithering with my own eyes!


More info on The Great Seattle Earthquake

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How Earthquakes Shaped Seattle’s Landscape

Most people are aware that San Francisco’s north-south trending landscape was shaped by the San Andreas Fault. But who thinks of Seattle that way? Not many. Well, I’m here to tell you otherwise.

As you can see on the map (taken from my novel The Great Seattle Earthquake), the City of Seattle happens to have an earthquake fault running right through it. Fortunately for us, this nasty rip in the fabric of the earth hasn’t let loose a major shakedown in recent history. But the evidence of its past conniptions is there to be seen, and scientists have eyed these landforms with growing concern in recent years. That’s part of what motivated me to write the what-if tale of terror that is The Great Seattle Earthquake. The landscape-altering Seattle Fault is STILL as active as the San Andreas.

Look closely at the map (click or tap it for a larger view). See how Alki Point and Restoration Point on Bainbridge Island seem to point at each other? Of course they do. They are uplifted sections of the Puget Sound seabed, raised in a massive quake that stuck at around 900 AD.

Restoration PtTake a look at these two images of Restoration Point (again, click for a larger view). See those stripes of rock? They might seem reminiscent of geological strata, laid down flat, one on top of the other, then tipped sideways, as is often seen in mountainous regions. But they are not strata. This was a flat portion of the sea floor when the Seattle Fault heaved upward in 900 AD, raising it twenty-five feet into the air. Furthermore, the force of the quake shattered the land in rippling patterns you can still see in these rocks. Wow. What an incredible force it was that moved so much of the earth’s surface up so far, so fast, and did the same on the Alki side of the Sound. Perhaps these ripple marks inspired the legend of A’yahos, the Earthquake Serpent, who Native American storytellers describe as rippling under the surface of the land.

Restoration overheadHave a look at Restoration Point from directly above. Not only are the ripple patterns clear, but notice how some of the strips of rock are jumbled at odd angles. This is the result of what tribal storytellers call “The Day the Rocks Exploded.” And this was long before Europeans arrived with their gunpowder and dynamite. The mind boggles at what the ancient Native Americans saw. Titanic boulders leaping skyward and falling back like scattered hay straws. You can still see these today at Restoration and Alki Points. They form great tide pools where I used to play as a youngster, unperturbed by any notion of their violent origins.

Alki PtThere are other signs of the Seattle Fault’s might and its effect on the area’s inhabitants. At West Point in Discovery Park lie the archeological remnants of Native American camps that span several thousand years of continuous occupation–with a notable hiatus at around 900 AD, when the shell middens and stone tool artifacts disappeared for a century or so following deposition of tidal wave sands several feet thick. That’s right, a tidal wave generated by the earthquake that uplifted Alki and Restoration Points swept over West Point, no doubt drowning any inhabitants and submerging all traces of the encampments there. Furthermore, West Point was once a much larger point, comparable to Alki Point. But the overthrusting of the southern side of the fault drove the lands to the north downward, sinking West Point by several feet, most of it never to rise above tidewater again.

There’s more evidence in our landscape of the rising southern side and sinking northern side of the Fault. Elliott Bay itself is a sunken basin, pushed down and filled with water by the overriding southern heights of West Seattle. And, where is the highest point in all of Seattle? You guessed it, right at the top of West Seattle’s Gatewood Hill.

So next time you’re driving, walking, bussing, training, or biking around our beautiful city, give a thought to how it all came to be. And also give a thought to where you’ll drop, cover, and hang on if a landscape-shaping rupture of the Seattle Fault strikes again.

I have put together a slideshow presentation of this and much more information about the earthquake and tsunami history of the Seattle Area. If you or your group are interested in learning more, you can find further details and contact information HERE.

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ShakeOut! Did Seattle’s Earthquake Drill Make A Deadly Mistake?

With a title like that, I’d like to start by saying I appreciate all the great work being done by earthquake planners in our shake-prone region. And to underscore my enthusiasm, let it be known that I participated in this year’s Great ShakeOut, an earthquake drill on a massive scale that happened just this last week. In so doing, I learned a lot about earthquake preparedness and safety. But I’ve got to say, some of what I saw and read was, to my way of thinking, not such good advice. In particular the explicit recommendation that people should exit stadiums after a quake could, instead of saving lives, cause death on a massive scale. No. Really. Keep reading.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m a big fan of earthquake preparedness, and I respect the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s (FEMA’s) advice in general. Last Thursday I dropped, covered, and held on, just as they suggest in their poster (click it for a better view). Right at 10:17 AM, according to plan, I joined millions of people around the world doing the earthquake drill at the same time in a vast number of locations. I was in my writing office. Others were in their homes, workplaces, or schools.

I took a few moments to scramble around on the floor imagining the walls rocking to and fro, but afterwards I got to thinking. I re-read their plan and confirmed a problem that worried me. It’s specific to the Seattle Area, so everyone else, don’t worry. If you’re in Denver’s Mile High Stadium when a quake strikes, you’ll probably be fine following the plan as stated. But if you find yourself at a major league baseball or football game in Seattle, you should avoid what I think is the opposite of good advice given in point Number 9. Following that point to the letter in the Seahawks or Mariners stadiums might be lethal for a very large number of people.

Here’s the problem. The two stadiums in question, the Mariners’ T-Mobile Field baseball stadium, and the Seahawks’ CenturyLink football stadium, are located in the flat SoDo district of Seattle. The area is flat because it was built on landfill atop the Duwamish River mudflats. The present mile-wide, perfectly flat landscape sits about sixteen feet above average sea level on Puget Sound, and only about eight feet above the highest tides. That’s exactly why FEMA’s advice does not ring true to me.

In Panel 7 of their presentation, they suggest people near beaches should drop, cover, and hold on, just like people in other situations would do. Then they tell you to quickly walk to higher ground. Here’s the rub, higher ground is about a quarter mile away for CenturyLink sports fans, and nearly a half mile away for T-Mobile patrons. Much easier said than done. But that’s not the worst of it.

Panel 9, which is more specific to stadium-goers, gives advice that is arguably worse. After correctly showing people dropping below the level of their seats to protect from objects falling from above (I wrote about this in my book), it then goes on to make a huge mistake: TELLING PEOPLE TO WALK OUT OF THE STADIUM.

But as I described in vivid detail in The Great Seattle Earthquake, that maneuver would put masses of people directly in the path of a tsunami that would wash completely over the SoDo district within 5 to 10 minutes after the end of shaking on the Seattle Fault.

And adding a dose of panic, a lot of those people will be running. In my view, that will only serve to increase the number of people who reach the streets just in time to meet a killer wave, taller than a man, as it roars ashore. Such a wave will sweep up everything in its path, including any unlucky people who happened to have left the stadium—on FEMA’s advice!

As I described in gruesome detail in The Great Seattle Earthquake, leaving the stadium after the shaking stops is most definitely a dangerous idea. Quakes on the Seattle Fault can propel huge surges of water into the Seattle area. It has happened before. An entire Native American camp was swamped and buried in tsunami sand on Discovery Park’s West Point—right in town! This sort of thing is also retold in Duwamish Indian legends of the earthquake serpent spirit A’yahos. I researched and wrote about all this in the book too, so I’m starting to feel like some sort of expert.

I’ll go a step further and warn you: unless the stadium is crumbling all around you, STAY PUT despite what the FEMA guidelines say. As other experts might tell you, Shelter In Place.

And things could get even worse. In my story, I describe something no expert seems to have addressed, or perhaps even thought of. What if Harbor Island were to collapse like what happened in Valdez, Alaska in 1964’s Great Alaskan Earthquake? There, a mudflat landfill like Harbor Island slumped entirely into the sea, producing a tidal wave 30 feet tall that killed scores of people in that sparsely populated area. God forbid such a monster wave should strike SoDo with fifty thousand people in a stadium. But one really could.

There. I’ve said my piece. Take it or leave it. Someday, it may be your life on the line.

So what’s to be done? I think a couple of things are obvious. First of all, decide right now, and bear it in mind, that if you experience an earthquake while at a game in Seattle, you will not immediately leave the stadium, unless the place is coming down around your ears. Stay put and shelter in your seat like the folks in Panel 9. Think long and hard before going out onto the streets. Even the playing fields themselves will flood. So, hey, team, don’t hesitate. Climb into the stands as if your lives depended on it. They may.

Secondly, I think Seattle should take some initiative beyond what FEMA provides in their very general document. I believe Seattle would be wise to install a tidal-wave detecting system on local waters, especially near SoDo. Timely information could be critical if a wave is on the way within minutes. The decision to leave a damaged stadium or to stay in it will be a fateful choice. Knowing whether a wave is on the way could make the difference between life and death for hundreds—or thousands—of stadium-goers.

Click HERE to download a full pdf version of the FEMA plan.

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Rugby Daze

I have a life other than authoring natural disaster thrillers like The Great Seattle Earthquake. While watching the royalties and reviews of the new book come in, I have kept tabs on the Rugby World Cup, which is currently playing out in Yokohama, Japan. Once upon a time, I was a rugby player, not a watcher. For eight years, encompassing sixteen seasons, I played the wing and lock positions for Cornell Med in New York City. I was about the scrawniest member ever of a sport well known for brawn, brawling, and beef.

But no one could call me faint-hearted. In one game, I fielded an up-and-under kick, where the ball arched high and I jumped high to catch it only to be slammed down by a chest-high tackle that rattled my head on the ground and knocked me out cold for a few minutes. That happened in the first half, but I was back in the game for the second half, dishing it out as well as I had taken it. There were no cell phones back then, so no footage survives.

However, in another game several years later, I got involved in a head-on collision in a loose ruck. Going in for the ball, I met an opponent doing the same, and a clash of skulls ensued. That’s me at half-time, with a stream of blood splattering down my face from an eyebrow laceration that made me literally see red. It required five stitches later, and left a split-eyebrow scar that I’m still proud of. But at least I finished the game. Not so, the other guy.

Here’s a shot of him leaving the pitch (field) a little early. Well, you can’t see him because he’s already laid out in the back of the ambulance. Too bad he had to go, because we had a great party after, which is a Rugby tradition centered around a keg of beer and many a ribald song and raunchy poem. I ought to know, I often recited Rugby Dick to help Cornell–also known as Big Red–to win the party after if not the game.

If you’d like to learn more about this rough and tumble sport, check out the World Cup at this LINK. It starts with a performance by the New Zealand All Blacks of their legendary challenge to opponents, an authentic Maori Haka chant. Fun stuff.

Bet you didn’t know I was such a brawler in younger years. I’ve set aside the cleats, cup, and jersey, given my advancing age, but those were eight great years of unforgettable, hard charging, high impact, hyper-masculine stuff. Ernest Hemingway, you weren’t so badass.

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Da bookThe day foretold has finally arrived. The Great Seattle Earthquake has come–to my doorstep, delivered by overnight express. And it’s a fine and handsome book, the culmination of three years of painstaking research into subjects as diverse as geophysics, government disaster preparedness, and even local Native American legends.

The story line of this thriller follows the fates of a small collection of characters whose experiences are portrayed in great detail, while society as a whole is shaken out of its earthquake complacency by devastating events on a grand scale.

To the best of my ability as an author, I have striven to both entertain–scare, that is–and educate. Did you know a huge earthquake fault runs directly under the City of Seattle? Did you know it snapped around 1100 years ago, raising portions of the sea bottom and sinking a village of the Duwamish Tribe under tsunami sand? Do you know what Mariners stadium evacuation plans call for in case of a quake? Well, I do, and I wrote tons of factual information in and between scenes describing the characters’ desperate struggles to survive.

Curious? Follow this LINK to a page that lists every available version, from Kindle to Nook to iBook to paperback.

I’m pretty sure you won’t be disappointed.

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Shaken before I stirred

Three Lakes shakerThe other night I was nearly tossed out of bed by an earthquake. That would be the Three Lakes Earthquake, epicentered just north of Seattle, July 12, 2019, 2:51 a.m. At magnitude 4.6, it wasn’t one for the record books, but it shook me pretty good. It was kind of a sideways heaving roller that really did almost throw me off my mattress. It didn’t last long, but in the darkness, listening to the metal gutters and downspouts rattling against the side of my house, my heart rate went up quite a few notches.

I got up and went for my computer, coffee cup in hand. Sure enough, the USGS already had the quake pinpointed and mapped on its Pacific Northwest Seismic Network website.

All this shaking and rattling serves as great last-minute inspiration for me to complete my latest writing project. That would be my new novel, The Great Seattle Earthquake, now scheduled for release on July 31. Mark your calendar!

Seattle FaultAnd while the other night’s temblor caused some excitement, it pales in comparison to the magnitude 7.8 terror I dreamed up for my story. Keep an eye out for future announcements and the book release, coming soon!

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The Great Seattle Earthquake is on its way

Scary headline, huh?

But The Great Seattle Earthquake is on its way for sure. You see, it’s my latest novel and I’m in the middle of the 4th draft. At some point soon, I’m gonna call a halt to all the revisions and just publish the dang book!

Wow! This book is both the scariest story I’ve ever tackled, and the most difficult to write. I’ve been at it for more than two years. Things have gone on for so long that my Art Department has outstripped my Editorial Staff. I gotta say, I like their artwork. Click on the cover image to magnify it. See how that jagged white line cuts right through Seattle? That’s the Seattle Fault. Formerly poorly understood, it has recently gotten some attention from geologists and city planners—and they’re getting nervous.

Not only does the Seattle Fault represent a pretty substantial threat to all of us who live on and around it, but it is responsible for a second, possibly nastier problem. It has put a huge wrinkle in Puget Sound Country to produce a thirty-mile-wide sediment-filled hole called the Seattle Basin that underlies Seattle, Bellevue, Bothell, and surrounding areas from the Cascade Foothills to Hood Canal. These softer sediments can shake like a bowl of Jello in an earthquake.

That bodes poorly for high-rise buildings in the area, as explained in this Seattle Times article by investigative reporter Sandi Doughton. Ms. Doughton, who is a major information source for me in earthquake-related matters, states that although city and state officials are studying the new threat and beginning to tighten regulations on skyscraper construction, many tall buildings on our skylines are of uncertain strength when it comes to the sort of shaking that might occur within the Seattle Basin.

So, how does all this fit into The Great Seattle Earthquake? Very nicely, thank you. You see, my mission in writing the novel is both to provide scary entertainment, and to inform readers about the very real dangers that will confront us all, when and if that day comes.

I expect The Great Seattle Earthquake to be released in early 2019. Let’s hope the Seattle Fault doesn’t release its pent-up power anytime soon.

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The Fireboat Leschi

The LeschiSometimes being a writer of thriller novels causes you to go places and do things you might otherwise never think of. Like the other day when background research for my novel about an earthquake and tsunami in Seattle led me to venture aboard the fireboat Leschi. This powerful and ultramodern ship is the pride of Seattle Fire Department’s fireboat fleet and a force to be reckoned with when fire or other mishap strikes on the waterfront.

Pump engineThe overall impression when you step aboard the Leschi is ‘Man! She’s big!’ At 108 feet long and bristling with water cannon called ‘monitors’ (as in Monitor and Merrimack, maybe?) this vessel was built to eliminate fire quickly and decisively. Below decks, her engine room is filled with four giant engines that you have to see to believe. Hopefully the image at left will help. That’s one of the water-pump engines. To give you a sense of its scale, a six-foot man could stand on the corrugated walkway beside the row of cylinders running down its length, and not see over the top (I know because I’ve been there, tried that). How else can I describe its eminent mass? Bigger than a rhinoceros, smaller than an elephant. Does that help? How about just plain huge? Furthermore, there are four of these things in the engine room, all shiny red and gleaming—and gigantic. Two of them are there to turn the ship’s twin propellers, while two of them draw fire-dowsing seawater through openings under the hull and propel it into the red manifold pipes you see above the engine, which in turn take it to the deck ‘guns,’ which send it arching to the fire.

And who commands all this power? The Leschi responds to emergencies with a fire response team of four people: a pilot to get the boat where she needs to go, an engineer to target the deck guns and manage the ship’s crane and ladder, a deck hand to manage a thousand-and-one other critical tasks, and a captain, who manages communications and makes key decisions when things get hot.

LT Kerns and the LeschiIt was this latter person who showed me around his amazing craft. Lieutenant Robert Kerns is shown here on deck in front of the Leschi’s wheelhouse, from which he and his team command the Leschi’s dramatic, sometimes life-and-death missions. But on this fine Seattle day with no emergency to respond to, he had the time to show an astonished citizen like me around his boat, earning my deep gratitude for his time, and my admiration for what he and his team can do when an emergency beckons.

So, thank you LT Kerns. Be assured that the Leschi and her brave crew will figure prominently in my upcoming novel. And hopefully I’ll get the details right now that you have taken the time to explain them to me!

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A Ride In My Uncle’s Warplane!

Avenger turret gunNot long ago, I got the ride of my life when I climbed aboard the very aircraft that my Uncle Herbert Hopp flew to glory in the South Pacific during World War II — the Grumman Avenger Torpedo Bomber! Not only that, but I got to sit in his very seat in the rear-facing gun turret, seen here with its deadly 50-caliber machine gun seemingly poised to engage any pesky Japanese Zeros that might fly too near (one was overhead at the time).

When I went to Paine Airfield to attend “Pacific Theater Day,” an exhibition of warbirds that had flown in the island-hopping campaigns that destroyed the Japanese Imperial Fleet’s stranglehold on the South Pacific, I expected to get my first glimpse of the famous Grumman Avenger in the flesh — well, okay, metal. But I didn’t expect to find a ticket booth offering rides for a fee. I balked at the steep price for about a half a heartbeat — and my pulse was racing. I hadn’t guessed that I would not only see, but fly in the aircraft that’s central to my novel about Uncle Herb’s exploits, heroism, and tragic crash-landing on a jungle island. I slapped my credit card down and soon was bound for the wild blue yonder.

Taxiing AvengerPilot Micheal Kopp of the Historic Flight Foundation, seen here taxiing for a takeoff with another lucky stiff aboard, has painstakingly restored his aircraft to its original 1945 condition, right down to a five-hundred-pound bomb slung under the wing (the very bomb Herb’s Pilot won the Navy Air Cross for dropping onto the bows of a Japanese destroyer, putting it permanently out of the war). Kopp gives people rides of about 1/2 hour’s duration, which in the event seemed like a blissful eternity to me. He suggested the turret might be little cramped for my long legs and suggested I take a seat in the radioman’s position (as the passenger in the picture is doing). I told him comfort was not a factor. I’d be delighted to shoehorn myself in with my knees up under my chin, just for the experience of being in Herb’s place.

Turret gunner's viewI wasn’t disappointed. Tight though the fit was (Jeez! Imagine bullets flying past you every which way! Talk about claustrophobic!), I had the ride of my life when the huge engine roared and we raced down the runway and lifted off. We circled Paine Field, then flew south along the Puget Sound shoreline until we reached Seattle. There, we flew over the Space Needle as if it were a target and then made our way back to the airfield by way of Lake Washington and Sand Point, where Herb had taken his gunnery training.

The photo above is a frame of a cell-phone video I shot along the way. Note the cross-shaped tail in the center and the ominous 50-cal barrel to my left. I had my hand on the joystick that turns the turret and my finger on the trigger, but gosh! They hadn’t loaded any ammo!

GobsmackedThe photo to the right is a bonus shot I got when my cell phone accidentally grabbed a selfie. That expression you see is a man who is gobsmacked, slack-jawed, astonished, and ready to die and go to heaven. And quite a few airmen did just that in this war machine, though their cause was fulfilled through skill, daring, and a bit of luck.

Inevitably, all good things must come to an end. We touched down minutes later and I returned to my mundane existence as a writer of action-adventure stories. But from this day forward, I’ll bet my descriptions of the roar and excitement of military aviation will go up a couple of notches.

Thanks Mike! Thanks Historic Flight Foundation! And thanks Uncle Herb!

What a day!

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Jurassic World vs Dinosaur Wars

Ever get the feeling someone was looking over your shoulder while you were reading a book?

Well, these days I’m getting that feeling as I WRITE my books. I have a sneaking suspicion that some of the people writing the scripts for the Jurassic Park movie series have been keeping an eye on my Dinosaur Wars stories for some time now. That would explain how they keep using scenes I published years earlier in one or another of my books.

Want proof, so you can get into my not-so-paranoid view of things? Have a look at the image above, an out-take from Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom, now playing at a theater near you. Wait a minute! That’s an exact copy of a scene I published six years ago in Dinosaur Wars: Blood on the Moon, the third novel in my Dinosaur Wars trilogy. Imagine my surprise when I went to a theater and saw something I came up with years ago appearing on the silver screen!

For comparison, here is the scene as it appeared in my novel:

They watched two wet-suited young men ride on the face of a huge North Pacific swell as it rose in the shallows between two sea stacks. “They’ve gotta be crazy to surf in that cold water,” Hebert said.

“They’ve gotta be crazy to surf in the middle of dinosaur territory,” Suarez corrected. Just then, one of the surfers hooked his board hard in an effort to miss an obstacle hidden beneath the surface while the other raced on. Before the first could complete his kick-out, the water near him frothed up and the snout of a big sea creature emerged. The man dove to one side as the beast’s head rose from the water. It was covered with dark green reptilian scales and possessed long jaws lined with savage-looking crocodile teeth.

“Hoo-wee!” Hebert exclaimed. The surfer vanished beneath the water and the tylosaur bit the surfboard at its center, snapping it in two. The monstrous, snakelike creature swirled around in the water and came back to seize, not the surfer, who remained underwater, but the front half of the board. It gulped the mouthful down in a single swallow and then slid smoothly beneath the blue-green surface of the ocean.

A moment later, the surfer came to the surface and swam toward shore at what looked like an Olympic-record pace. And wisely so. The huge sea reptile rose again, riding up and over a swell. It did not, however, go after the unlucky surfer. Instead, it made several convulsive retching motions and coughed up the half surfboard. Meanwhile, the surfer caught a wave and body surfed to shore where his partner awaited him with his board tucked under an arm.

The drama wasn’t over yet, however. As the unlucky surfer stood up and splashed toward the beach, struggling against the undertow, his buddy shouted and pointed beyond him. The man turned in time to see the tylosaur also surfing a big wave to shore. Its jaws were wide open and its thrashing, snake-like body propelled it straight at him!

The man splashed up-beach in the wave wash but went down in the shallows. Then he stood and high-stepped in the shallows like a football player avoiding a tackler, angling slightly to avoid the onrushing jaws, which snapped shut just behind his buttocks.

“Nice moves!” cried Suarez.

“Gah!” Tlatalko agreed.

When the tylosaur plowed into the sand and came to a halt, both surfers retreated up the beach, no doubt thanking their lucky stars to be alive.

“Now it’s stranded,” said Hebert, watching the tylosaur thrash in the shallow water.

“I don’t know,” Suarez replied as the animal carved its long serpentine tail across the face of an incoming wave and deftly leveraged itself off the sand and back toward the sea. “That thing’s got some good moves of its own!” One more tail slash and the immense reptile vanished into the surf as swiftly as it had appeared.

“Wow!” Hebert exclaimed as the two surfers made for the safety of the driftwood and dunes above the wave-wash. “I guess surfers have a whole new animal to worry about besides great white sharks.”

“Yeah,” Suarez agreed. “And I’d say great white sharks have a whole new animal to worry about too—great green lizards!”


Now, as Oscar Wilde once said, imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. But I’m starting to get annoyed by the frequency with which Steven Spielberg and his team tap my ideas without so much as a byline in the credits at the end of the movie. Not only have they grabbed my Mosasaur vs surfer scene, but there are more instances, and I get the feeling the rate of tapping my ideas is escalating.

Nice girl, Blue!In the previous Jurassic World movie, back in 2015, they did their first grab of Dinosaur Wars by introducing their Mosasaur. Also in that movie, they introduced Chris Pratt’s character, Owen Grady, who is a dinosaur trainer. Well, excuse me, but you should read my Tyrannosaur-training scene right up front at the beginning of Dinosaur Wars: Blood on the Moon (2012), if you want some real heart-pounding, life-or-death dino-training drama. Here it is. Try it on for size, Steven:

The tyrannosaurus was a big one. It stalked across the brushy grassland of the Montana high plains smoothly on two towering legs that somehow moved gracefully despite their tree-like size. The huge carnivore placed one three-clawed foot on the ground almost gently, followed slowly by the other foot in a stealthy fluid motion. The immense tawny-furred animal blended into the tan colors of the grasslands so well as to be almost unnoticeable despite its size. Keeping its head low and its long tail stretched out behind, it was stalking something it smelled on the warm morning air currents. The brown and tan zebra-striped mane along the crest of its neck stood tall with anticipation of a kill. Its nose came up slightly each time it sniffed the light breeze. Then it would adjust its course a little to follow the scent it was homing in on.

That scent was far too faint for a human nose to detect but was easily traced by the powerful sensory system within the rex’s snout, one that rivaled or surpassed that of a wolf’s nose. After a few more paces into the wind the rex sniffed again, adjusted its direction once more—and caught sight of its quarry. Now the big beast accelerated its pace, tracking visually but still moving fluidly and silently on its well-padded feet. It obviously hoped to reach its prey without causing it to flee.

That prey, Chase Armstrong, adjusted the bill of his green National Park Service ball cap to keep the sun out of his eyes. “He’s seen us,” he murmured with just the hint of an edge on his voice. “Here he comes!”

“Oh my God,” Kit Daniels whispered from just behind Chase’s shoulder. “Are you sure this is a good idea?”

“I guess we’ll see.” Chase rose from his exposed driver’s seat to face the oncoming rex. “Hey you!” he shouted at it. “Want some of this?” He waved his arms to be certain the rex was fixated on him. It was.

As the rex accelerated to a full charge with its feet thundering on the ground, Chase turned around, bent over, and slapped a butt cheek provocatively. “Nice and meaty!” he shouted. “Come and get it!”

“Chase!” Kit cried, watching the rex loom larger with each stride. “I don’t think you should be doing that!” She peered around Chase from where she sat behind him in the second seat of the Kra walking machine. She had planned to stand up with Chase when this moment came, but something about a tyrannosaurus charging in her direction made her too shaky to rise without her knees buckling. After all, it had been she, not Chase, who had escaped the jaws of one of these huge carnivores twice in a single day. And those memories were recent enough that their terror hadn’t faded.

When the rex was within twenty paces, it let out a piercing shriek like the battle cry of a titanic eagle.

“Enough is enough, Chase!” Kit cried. “I’ve been here, done this!”

“He’s gotta get closer.” Chase’s voice remained calm somehow, though Kit’s heart was racing crazily. Maybe Chase’s years as a park ranger dealing with angry grizzly bears had prepared him for this challenge. “Gar says we need to give him a good look at us and make sure he knows it’s humans he’s trying to eat.”

“It’ll be humans he does eat if you don’t do something, quick!”

“Just let him get a bit closer.”


And you might have noticed another story element that Jurassic World lifted from me. In contrast to the older, dry and loveless Jurassic Park movies, Jurassic World introduces a budding romance between two characters, Owen Grady and Claire Dearing, played by Bryce Dallas Howard. Yeah. Uh-huh. That would be like harkening back to my original Dinosaur Wars story from 2000. In Earthfall, I immediately introduced both Chase Armstrong and Kit Daniels right up front as the lead characters, who very quickly became romantically involved. A little slow on that one, Jurassic World, but okay, you’re catching on.

And finally, there’s that bit toward the end of Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom, showing dinosaurs escaping Isla Nublar and invading the mainland. Jeez, JP. What took you so long? As I sat in the theater watching Jeff Goldblum speak Ian Malcolm’s last line, “Welcome to Jurassic World,” I felt a strong sense of irony and just a little irritation. My whole concept for my Dinosaur Wars series has been “Dinosaurs in your backyard!” And now we see the velociraptor, Blue, overlooking the glittering lights of Los Angeles.

So, I guess Mr. Spielberg and his buddies are making me a promise. After twenty-five years of dallying around on a tropical island, they are finally going to come ashore and take over the space my dinosaurs have been occupying since 2000. The least they could do is recognize the source of their idea. Or better yet, engage my services to help them do a really good job of it!

Hey, Steven Spielberg! Why don’t you just go ahead and hire me as one of your writers? That way you won’t have to bring up the rear anymore. You won’t have to eat my tyrannosaur dust. You can stay up to date with my latest ideas. I wouldn’t mind. Especially at YOUR pay scale!

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