Category Archives: free ebook

Free ebook gem: “The Mosstrooper: A Legend of the Scottish Border” by Robert Scott Fittis is a marvelous, authentic document that entertains


Mining the hoary ebook files of Project Gutenberg is like panning for gold. Every once and a while you wash up a shiny nugget. Such is the case with THE MOSSTROOPER: A LEGEND OF THE SCOTTISH BORDER by Robert Scott Fittis.

Fittis was a writer’s writer and a Scotsman’s Scott. Born in 1824 in Perth, Fittis took to his pen early in life; he completed Mosstrooper at the age of just 17. That’s astonishing considering the shimmering quality of this short novel. It should be noted, however, that Fittis revised this work years later after many decades of writing and publishing volumes for local “penny papers.”

The Mosstrooper was originally published in serial fashion, as were just about all of Fittis’ works that eventually became books. Fittis was a master of keeping his audience of fellow Scotts enthralled. I have been unable to find significant ancillary information about Fittis, so I’m uncertain if he achieved recognition beyond his regional popularity. He died in 1903. What’s beyond doubt is that he ascended to the status of legend within his realm – and was widely considered a favorite son of Scotland.

The Mosstrooper is a rather simple tale of tragedy and triumph, knights and damsels, set in late 1400s Scotland. The background scene is what was then the somewhat murky region of what was then the borderlands between England and Scotland. It was a time of powerful lords and barons who were virtual kings in their own right. Although nominally under the sway of the English Crown, they commanded private armies. Disputes among them were a constant source of power games, political maneuvering and war.

This border region produced a mercenary class of soldier called a “Borderer.” They were part outlaw, part Scottish nationalist, opportunistic plunderers, and as Fittis describes them: “ … rough-living, law-defying, rarely out of “sturt and strife.”

The border was also often in dispute not just between England and Scotland, but perhaps even more so among local barons, whether it be Scott against Scott or Anglo against Anglo, and any combination thereof.

What makes Mosstroopers a marvelous book is a deep authenticity engendered by a writer who was a dedicated historian obsessed with researching ancient genealogies, and poring over dusty, yellowed archives, cracking with age. Equally as important: Fittis was an ardent student of the language as expressed in poetry and verse.

Fittis gives us heady doses of the local Scottish brogue, and expertly tunes our ears to the regional enunciations in passages like this:

“Frae sunset to sunset has this hand been feckless as a withered rush,” he said. “In darkness as in licht I ha’e been weak as water. I micht ha’e flung the brat, like a stane, frae the brow o’ a fathomless precipice, never mair to be seen but by the ravens.”

Or here’s another, quoting a “gaberlunzie” which was a kind of itinerant vagabond or hobo of the Scottish countryside:

“It’s a braw and bonnie nicht,” said the begger … “a braw May nicht indeed. Look to the lift – look to the earth – there’s beauty owre a’. See – the parting beams o’ sun linger on the bald, rocky brow o’ yon hill, like a crown o’ glory, while a’ the dell aneath is losing itself in the shadow.”

It’s wonderful. Reading the Mosstroopers is as close as I’ll probably ever get to climbing into an actual time machine and traveling back to the untamed wilds of the English-Scotch borderlands – to a time of knights and barons, bravery and treachery, Scottish heroes and the beautiful maidens who held their hearts.

Ken Korczak is the facilitator of: THE DR. 58 MATERIAL

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Free ebook: “The Autobiography of a Cornish Smuggler” not much about smuggling, but a rather a man’s spiritual journey to renounce the greed, violence and suffering of the world


When I saw this free ebook, THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF A CORNISH SMUGGLER, I eagerly downloaded it and settled in for what I hoped would be tales of intrigue, danger and adventure on the high seas. The book is based on the manuscript of Captain Harry Carter an Englishman who was born and raised in Cornwall, and who grew up to adopt the life of a smuggler.

But there’s precious little about smuggling in this manuscript.

Most of the document written in 1809 by Carter describes his personal spiritual journey as a God-seeking Methodist after abandoning the illegal and harrowing life of a smuggler.

But I must also add that I was not entirely disappointed. His quest to find God and inner peace does not read like most of today’s (or any era’s) insufferable Christian tripe. Rather, Carter’s journey projects more like the journal of an acetic monk. He pitches no dogma, offers no haranguing lectures and does no proselytizing.

His journey might better be compared to that of a Buddhist renouncing all the material illusions of the world, or a Hindu seeker determined to focus only on the transcendent, and a desire to merge with the omnipresence of Universal Consciousness.

Carter’s strength is his ignorance, something he confesses to repeatedly throughout his many travails and travels. He possesses what Zen master D.T. Suzuki called “beginner’s mind.” Innocent like a child, he uses the broad tenets of Methodism, but finds his own way with constant simple prayer, fasting, singing (chanting), and a refusal to strive and grasp for wealth. He never resists the aggressive forces which confront him along the way. He only doggedly seeks peace, anonymity and to be left alone.

Carter is like a spiritual Ulysses, buffeted about by the winds of chance and circumstance. Like Ulysses, he often finds friends and aid at unexpected moments. His post-smuggling travels take him all the way to New York – which must have been a fascinating place in 1789 – back to England and then to France where he was caught up in the Reign of Terror precipitated by the French Revolution.

He becomes a political prisoner, but his incarceration is light-handed and mostly “in-house.” Carter demonstrates that a man who has absolutely nothing to gain, nothing to lose, and absolutely no worldly agenda cannot truly be imprisoned.

His aura of complete humility, his renouncement of all things material and his laser focus on aligning his soul with God is inspirational, no matter what your faith, maybe even for an atheist.

Even more famous than Harry Carter’s was his older brother, John, who to this day enjoys a lustrous status among Cornish culture. In Cornwall, John Carter’s star eclipses that of another legendary English social malcontent — Robin Hood — except Carter was certainly a real person and a real smuggler.

Smugglers were part pirate, part free-enterprise businessmen, part organized crime – but for the most part – few of them considered what they were doing wrong, even though they knew it was illegal under British law. The people of Cornwall were dirt poor. Their only options were to work seasonally in local tin mines as near slaves, scrabble out a living on a rocky patch of farm, or maybe eke out a living as fishermen.

Smuggling was a road to riches – it not only enriched the smuggler, but the loot trickled down considerably throughout Cornish society.

This document was published in 1900 under the auspices of John B. Cornish, who provides a helpful introduction and notes, and who is also listed as editor. A bit of Internet sleuthing turned up nothing about Mr. Cornish, so I’ll leave it at that.

My bottom line is that I find this to be a remarkable tidbit of history. It may not provide much insight into the world of Cornish smuggling, but “Captain” Harry Carter is an endearing and admirable soul. I was delighted to to have met him through the words he left behind.

Ken Korczak is the author of MINNESOTA PARANORMALA

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Free ebook: The Lazy Man’s Guide to Enlightenment by Thaddeus Golas still reads fresh and powerful more than 40 years later


Many years ago when the world was all green and I was in my 20s I came across a thin volume in a bookstore. It was The Lazy Man’s Guide to Enlightenment by THADDEUS GOLAS. Even though it was like, five bucks, but obviously only a couple hour’s read, I still plunked down an Abe and took it home.

This little volume really blew me away those many years ago. I thought it was an elegant piece of literature. It was written in a groovy 1960s style. The concepts presented were profound, but at the same time not lofty, preachy or pretentious. Or I should say, the ideas were lofty without seeming lofty. What Golas was saying was amazing – yet believable – and it made sense to me. It had the ring of truth.

Now, some 30 years later – much older, wiser, more skeptical and jaded – I continue to consider Thaddeus Golas’ book a small masterpiece. More than three decades on, it reads just as fresh. Better yet, the ideas presented here have an untarnished aura of legitimacy and authenticity.

Thaddeus Golas was a Polish-American born in New Jersey, and at first lived what could be called a normal life. His gift for writing was noticed early by his teachers, and as a young adult worked for a while as an editor and in the publishing industry. He served with competence in World War II in the 604th Engineer Camouflage Battalion. He was rejected for service at first because of bad eyesight, but managed to “trick” his way into the Army anyway.

After the war, Golas eventually became part of the counterculture – first a beatnik hanging around all the cool locations in New York, and consorting with other counterculture icons, such as Allen Ginsberg and the soon-to-be notorious Timothy Leary.

Golas’ beatnik days transitioned naturally into aging hippy status, and he moved west and hung out “on the scene,” dropping a lot of acid and scraping by like a classic dharma bum on little or no cash. He wrote this book while “sitting penniless in my San Francisco apartment” he mentions in ‘Lazy Man’s’.

Although he never came close to achieving the legendary counterculture status of a Ginsberg or a Leary, or even someone like Ram Dass, Lazy Man’s Guide to Enlightenment became a major underground cult hit. It was said that Ginsberg and Leary were envious of Golas’ ability to sell books.


How would I describe what’s in the pages of this short book? It most closely resembles Zen philosophy, but mixed in with a smattering of modern physics, some LSD-induced visionary revelation – but mostly, this reads like something that is entirely unique and fresh, even if the most fundamental concepts can be found in other esoteric philosophies – especially the best Zen writings, such as that found in “Zen Mind Beginner’s Mind,” the marvelous book by Zen Master D.T. Suzuki.

The Lazy Man’s Guide to Enlightenment eventually went out of print, but it has been recently resurrected by SEED CENTER BOOKS, where you can purchase a paperback version. It’s also available as a Kindle selection – but if you want to, you can read it for free here: LAZY MAN’S GUIDE

Note that the free online version of Lazy Man’s Guide To Enlightenment is not technically an ebook because it’s not formatted in any downloadable formats as far as I can see. You’ll have to read it on your computer screen. But it’s a short read, and even if you don’t like reading straight from the computer screen, it’s easy to get through.

Do yourself a favor. Check out The Lazy Man’s Guide to Enlightenment. It’s truly a timeless classic. In fact, it gives the concept of “timeless” all new meaning – as you will discover for yourself.

Ken Korczak is the author of: MINNESOTA PARANORMALA

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Free Cordwainer Smith Kindle ebook: “The Game of Rat and Dragon” Marvelous!


CORDWAINER SMITH was more than a science fiction writer in many ways. His writing is a strangely shimmering, stand-out phenomenon within a genre that prides itself on innovation and creativity. His style was not only strikingly distinctive, but at once weirdly disturbing yet enchanting. Behind every story, the reader could sense a larger, fully envisioned fictional universe – which indeed there was.

Smith wasn’t only a science fiction writer – in fact, this was merely a minor, part-time hobby for him. His real name was Dr. Paul Linebarger. He was a Ph.D. scholar of Eastern Asian studies, and a deep government insider. Smith, or Linebarger, was known to be an expert in propaganda. His book, “PSYCHOLOGICAL WARFARE” published in 1948 is considered a classic in the field.

Cordwainer Smith came to the attention of the science fiction community when he published his short story, “Scanners Live in Vain” in an obscure publication, Fantasy Book, in 1950. It created a sensation, if not among a lot of reader, but within the community of science fiction elites. Great writers and editors, especially Frederick Pohl, recognized “Scanners” as a work of genius.


Scanners Live In Vain” also set off a something of a vexing mystery among the science fiction insiders. Who was he? Cordwainer Smith was obviously a pen name. Many believed he was – must be! — one of the old masters. Among the most popular theories was that Cordwainer Smith might be Jack Vance. Of course, the reality turned out to be even more interesting.

So — this free Kindle ebook (AND AVAILABLE HERE FREE IN MOST FORMATS), The Game of Rat and Dragon, is a short story which is a superb introduction to the charm and intelligence of this enigmatic writer. It’s a far, far future tale in which space travelers have developed an extremely peculiar method of interstellar space travel that requires the use of cats. Smith was known to be an ardent cat owner and lover (before it was universally cool).

Hope you love it as much as I did.

Ken Korczak is the author of: THE FAIRY REDEMPTION OF JUBAL CRANCH

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Free Science Fiction eBook, “Vector” : Strong Writing Saves Hackneyed Plot Elements From Being Just Another Zombie Offering


Vector is one among a collection of science fiction short stories in THE EXTRATERRESTRIAL ANTHOLOGY by a group of writers calling themselves DANGEREYE. It’s something of a miracle that I read Vector at all. That’s because after reading one of the other selections in this anthology, I was appalled by the truly amateurish, low quality of the offering – and I shall not name that story or its author here.

Thus I was pleasantly surprised when I read Mark Aragona’s piece which is a twist on the extremely pervasive zombie meme that is infecting so much of our entertainment culture today. Normally I would consider that a bad thing – yikes! yet another tale of the undead trying to eat the living! — but Aragona is a strong writer with a good sense for the plot and pacing of a short story. The characterization is skillful, the action never drags, the imagery is vivid and this tale even has a theme and message.

I would say Vector is written as well as any story you might find in one of today’s venerable science fiction magazines, such as Analog, Asimov’s Science Fiction or Fantasy and Science Fiction.

The only reason I’m not giving it my top recommendation is that it lacks originality. As I said, it leverages the zombie element, something we have seen in movie after movie and book after book in recent years. While this story is well handled, armies of ravenous, stumbling undead is soooo hackneyed — played! Worn-out! Done to death! (Pardon the pun).

The other reason I knock off points is for a certain lack of plausibility – such as the aliens taking great care to be immunized themselves against earth microorganisms that might be harmful to them – but somehow forgetting that their own germs and bacteria would infect the people of earth. That’s a pretty ridiculous!

But still, this story is well done. Aragona is a talented writer, believe you me. Overall, Vector is entertaining, fun, punchy – definitely recommended.


Free eBook: The Life and Times of Sir William Herschel


Let me be the first to admit that a biography of Sir William Herschel published more than 130 years ago and written by a pedantic intellectual is not going to have a wide appeal among a general audience today. But if you are like me, a lifetime amateur astronomy wonk, then this free Kindle ebook will be a delicious treat.

The author, Edward Singleton Holden, was an American astronomer of some accomplishment. He served as director of Washburn Observatory in Madison, Wisconsin, and was also a professor of mathematics at the U.S. Naval Observatory. One of the things he is most famous for is announcing the discovery of a third Martian moon – which, alas, turned out not to exist.

But Holden was an extremely prolific writer, and not just in the field of astronomy. His LIST OF PUBLICATIONS is impressive and amazingly broad in scope. He was clearly a significant scholar of his day. He was born in 1846 and died in 1914.

In this short book, Holden all but gushes as he paints a portrait of Herschel that borders on worship – but this is hardly surprising since the majority of the documentation Holden draws from are the writings of Herschel’s beloved and slavishly devoted sister, Caroline, who held her brother on a stellar pedestal of Olympian proportions.

Still, Holden also supplies further documentation in the form of letters written by luminaries who knew Herschel, or who met him just briefly, only to be flabbergasted by his uncanny charm, enormous charisma and truly authentic modesty despite his world-wide renown and many stunning achievments.

Herschel was German-born, but spent most of his adult life in England. It was his brilliant talent as a musician –- both as composer and performer– that quickly elevated him into the highest tiers of English society. He spent his early career in Bath, which as the time was a vibrant center of culture – a place where artists, intellectuals, high-society and super-well-connected aristocrats gathered to celebrate the pinnacle of British civilization. Herschel was also a master of languages. His native tongue was German, but he spoke perfect, accent-free English, as well as French, Italian, Latin and could at least read Greek.

But it was astronomy and stargazing that was Herschel’s deepest passion — his obsession. In his quest to constantly “see deeper into space than any other man,” Herschel became the indisputably finest maker of reflecting telescopes in the world, which he built by hand. He strove ever to construct larger and larger instruments, culminating in his 40-inch-reflector behemoth, which was the largest telescope on the planet for decades to come.

Today, Sir William Herschel is best known as the discoverer of Uranus – the first time in the history that another planet beyond Saturn came to be known. To say that this was a monumental accomplishment is a vast understatement. Since the beginning of science in ancient times, it was almost an article of established religion that there were, and could be, only six planets. It was the divine order. That there might be another planet – well – it is difficult for us to imagine today the paradigm shattering implications it had on the world of the late 1700s.

His accomplishments range far beyond the first man to discover a new planet, however. Herschel was more than an observer, but a formidable theoretician. His ideas on the distribution of stars and other objects, such as nebula and globular clusters, helped the scientific world envision a new model of the universe. His work with double stars and variable stars was ground-breaking.

The main thing I take away from Holden’s treatment of Herschel, however, is something I never knew about the great man before – that Sir William Herschel was flat out one of the nicest, sweetest, charming, most charismatic and beloved scientists ever to live.

Download this free ebook here: SIR WILLIAM HERSCHEL: HIS LIFE AND TIMES


‘Chupacabra’ is a Free Science Fiction eBook That Reads Like A Script For A Made-For-TV B Horror Movie


You know the way sometimes you’re flipping channels and you get to the Science Fiction station and notice they’re running some obviously super low-budget made-for-TV movie with some ludicrous premise – and you settle in to enjoy watching an extremely bad movie?

It’s that well-known “it’s-so-bad-it’s-good” phenomenon. A couple of years ago I happened upon a Sci-Fi Channel offering about a guy who turned into a giant mosquito! Ha, ha! Did you see that one? Boy, it was so screamingly dumb! But it’s fun to watch goofy crap like that occasionally because – well, I’ll just leave it to some psychologist to score a government grant to explain to all of us the why-we-like-bad-entertainment phenomenon.

But I mention this because I have just finished reading the short novel, CHUPACABRA, by DALLAS TANNER. I’ll come right out with a theory I have about this offering: I’m thinking that Mr. Tanner may have first attempted to write a script for a made-for-TV B movie, shopped it around, got no bites, and so decided to turn his script into a short novel.

As the title suggests, this is a yarn with the legendary CHUPACABRA– the goatsucker – of mostly Latin American legend, at the center of the premise. Chupacabra is a crypto-zoological beast with vampire-like tendencies that preys on farm animals. It sucks its victim dry of blood – but leaves the meat.

Unfortunately, reading a bad science fiction novel does not deliver the same pleasure as watching a bad movie. I think it’s because you have to work harder – you know, with the reading, and all. When you watch a terrible TV movie, you just sit back with a beer and a bag of Cheetos and let the dreck come to you. When you read a B-novel, there’s all that effort with the squinting at words and turning of pages, and such.

As fiction, Chupacabra makes every conceivable literary mistake a writer can make to ensure that this will be a truly terrible piece of writing – cliché-cardboard characters, blocks of exposition without action, absolutely no original concepts, and supremely poor editing.

Consider: One of the characters is a lovely Caribbean-born scientist who is something of an expert on the Chupacabra. She is alternately identified as: “an astronomer,” “an astrologer,” “an astronomist,” and “a technician.” I take pains to point this out to show you that I am not merely being purposefully mean and snarky in my review, but that I am only applying the unfortunate credit to where the unfortunate credit it due.

You might be surprised that I am going to say now that this author is almost certainly a far, far better writer than this novella suggests. I’ve been making my sole living as a freelance writer and editor for almost 30 years, and one develops an instinct for those who have “got it” and those who never will. Dallas Tanner has what it takes to be a genuinely fine writer, believe me — I can just tell – but no one will be able to tell from reading this book.

Note: You can get Chupacabra free ebook here: FREE SCIENCE FICTION EBOOK

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