When John Caine, an obscure midlevel banker from Detroit, accepts the opportunity of a lifetime to manage the backroom business functions of an important National Institutes of Health research lab in Bethesda, he believes his ship has finally come in. But his quirky penchant for illicit tinkering results in the creation and accidental release of a powerful new virus with effects no one could have imagined. Only he holds the answer to how it can be stopped, and he's not telling. Caine finds himself confronted with a desperate White House and an onslaught of rage from all quarters of the world's bureaucracies.

Fast paced, provocative, and offbeat, this cautionary story is thick with political satire and intrigue. It occurs in a world of government turned upside down, where Nancy Pelosi is president of a dysfunctional United States under her ultraliberal regime, while George Bush is a convicted felon and Rush Limbaugh a fugitive. Caine's Pestilence brings together present and former U.S. presidents, would-be assassins, two Supreme Court chief justices, familiar national media political commentators, and the infamous prison at Guantanamo Bay, all in a story readers will find engaging and controversial.

Thursday, April 17, 2014


by John Bascom (copyright © 2014)

SevenThe Widow-Maker (Part 1)

"There's simply something addictive about buffalo hunting," Sharon had said to me at dinner one evening.  "Our clients come to take an elephant, a leopard or lion only once.  But they come back for buffalo."
And for me it was true.  Few words can describe the drama, the anticipation of stalking the dense mopane bush and thick, dry jesse willows, hearing the impossibly close snorts and short, strong, invisible bellows, or catching the faintest glimpse of black moving close among the thick brush, all the time aware of the betraying potential of a shifting afternoon breeze or cracking twig beneath one's foot.  These thoughts occupy the buffalo hunter's idle time, are the stuff of his dreams while drifting into sleep each night.  I had taken
my buffalo many times in my imagination, shot him through a narrow gap among the jesse while he was facing me only yards away.  Or running right-to-left across my field of view, me taking the perfect lead on the front of his shoulder and nailing him cleanly through the heart and lungs, often breaking the opposite shoulder with a through-and-through shot in the process.  Then following up, stopping his wounded charge as he exploded at point-blank range from a dense tangle, dropping him in his tracks with cool nerves and a perfectly placed center-chest shot.  Followed by handshakes all around.  Of course, reality never matches fantasy, as I would soon learn.
On our first day we had scouted the hills in the morning, stopping to check what proved to be old spoor and scat, noting the lion tracks shadowing the buffalo, finally working down to a huge, tiered flood plain along a bending stretch of the dry M'Kunga River.  Buffalo
sign, some of it quite fresh, was everywhere and so were the tracks of our pride of hunting lions.  Wil had stopped the truck to investigate on foot and we walked the open savannah of the plain with its widely scattered small mopane trees and assorted bushy scrub.  Taller mopanes and spreading acacias lined the riverbank itself.  The plain was gently rolling with small knolls and ridges that we climbed to have a better look at the vast area.  Buffalo dung and prints were everywhere.  But there were no animals.
"There was quite the herd here recently," Wil said after we had walked the area for close to an hour.  "But they're being pushed by these lions.  That keeps them constantly on the alert and moving.  And the other side of the river is the Dande area where we're not allowed to hunt.  It's likely they've moved over there."
"Maybe we can check back here later," I said, excited to see promising sign.  We had been searching for buffalo since before dawn.  It was getting close to noon and this was the most intriguing, by far the largest and freshest area of buffalo evidence we had yet seen.
"We'll drive the riverbed for a mile or two before breaking for lunch," Wil said.  "Perhaps we'll catch them at a seep, or come upon a few stray dugga-boy stragglers.  One thing, though.  If we get into a large herd, we'll need to be quite careful about picking the right animal to shoot.  It can be a bit chaotic."
His words would later prove to be as ironic as they were prophetic.

It was late on that first day of hunting when, with the bushbuck I had shot earlier in the afternoon stowed in the bed of the truck, we made our way back toward camp as the sun was dropping down to barely touch the tops of the higher, most distant hills.  The Toyota banged along the rough track and up-and-down steep gullies.  Finally Wil brought it to a stop on hard, white bedrock that formed a natural bridge of sorts among a chain of large, still and clear pools in a stream bottom.
"No shooting here," Wil said.  "But we'll have our look for sign.  It's a favorite watering spot.  If we see something interesting, we can come back and follow up in the morning."
Wil and Levi walked the edges of the pools in one direction while Gift and Gilbert set off in the other.  Nickie, our driver Mafios, and I waited with the truck on the smooth sheet of rock separating two large pools.  The banks above the pools were lined with huge, green-leafed mahogany and mopane trees, and the hills rising sharply up and away from the streambed were thick with varied dry underbrush below a forest of bare-limbed, tall mopanes.
The two scouting parties had been gone about twenty minutes when Gift rushed back and past us, continuing in the direction taken by Wil and Levi.  After a few minutes they all returned to the truck.
"The guys spotted some very fresh, large tracks by one of the pools downstream.  Could be nice bulls.  Wait here while we go down there to investigate.  We're going to try and see where they've gone and check if there's any fresh dung along their track.  If it's promising we'll call for you."  Wil sounded excited.
Wil, Levi, Gift, and Gilbert headed out of sight around a bend in the stream, again Nickie, Mafios and I waited at the truck.  After only fifteen minutes Gift came rushing back.
"Wil say you come."  He retrieved my rifle from the back of the truck and I chambered a round.
Nickie and I quickly followed Gift along a game trail that meandered variously up and across the high hill that rose above the stream with its chain of pools.  After ten minutes we caught up with the group.  Levi and Gilbert, now joined by Gift, were sorting the intersecting and diverging game trails, picking out the path taken by the buffalos.  I moved up by Wil.
"Two big ones are moving along here," he said.  "The dung is still hot.  They couldn't be but minutes ahead.  We must have arrived at the pools just moments after they left."
We followed Wil and the trackers.  They became very cautious in the stalk, stopping, crouching, and peering ahead at intervals before proceeding slowly again.  Gift soon fell back and Wil motioned me up close behind him.  Levi tracked carefully in the lead, creeping and pausing frequently.  Suddenly Levi froze, crouched, and pointed up the hill with his entire hand.  Wil looked in the direction Levi had indicated for only an instant before setting up the sticks and urgently signaling me forward.  I rested my rifle in the crook.  The sun was well behind the hill and it was becoming quite dark.  Upon seeing my gun go up, Levi—in front—dropped face down flat on the trail.  Wil was directly beside me.  I saw in my peripheral vision Gift, Gilbert, and Nickie drop into a low, almost sitting squat behind us.  I quickly picked up two massive, compact and muscular black buffalos sorting their way through the brush just before the crest of the hill, some ninety yards up and ahead.  I put the crosshairs of the scope on each of their chests in turn as they made their way toward the top.  They looked identical.
Wil was studying them with his field glasses.
"Junk," he said.
I didn't understand.  The animals were huge.
"Scrum caps."
I thought he had said scum and was more confused than before.
"Which one?" I asked, meaning "which animal should I shoot?"
"Both," he said.  "They're both junk."
"I don't understand scum caps."  I was becoming even more confused.
"Scrum caps!"  Like the helmets the football players wear.  In the rugby scrums.  Both of them have broken horns on each side.  The inside fragments run tight down along the sides of their heads, looking something like a rugby helmet.  The part where they'd normally curl out then up is completely broken away.  Happens sometimes when bulls are very old and deteriorated.  They're both junk as trophies.  Quite big, ancient bulls, though.  What are the odds they'd both be scrum caps?  I've never encountered that before."

By the time we got back to the truck and were on our way toward camp once more it had become completely dark.  I was aware of an odd mix of elation at stalking up on two huge old dugga-boys we had encountered suddenly and unexpectedly at last light, and disappointment at having to pass on what would have been a thrilling shot.
"That was exciting," I said to Wil.  "I couldn't believe how quickly we got on those two big M'Bogos."  I had learned the word from my reading, Hemmingway, Ruark, Capstick.
"M'Bogo is a term they use in the far east of Africa, in Kenya, Tanzania and eastern Mozambique.  Where Swahili is the base of the languages.  Here in southern-central Africa the natives call them Nyati.  Or in English, The Black Death.  We whites often say 'Widow Maker'.  All well-deserved terms.  They're the deadliest animals hunters face by far."
"I know they can be dangerous," I said.  "But I'd have thought crocs, lions, or snakes take more people."
"Despite the stories, lion attacks really aren't a common factor in Africa.  It's true villagers accessing rivers for water are often killed by crocs or hippos.  Or black mambas among the dense crops looking for rodents while the farmers weed and harvest.  And elephants raiding fields can get aggressive and kill or injure the workers.  But those aren't hunting situations.  Far and away, most hunters—clients or their PHs—are killed by buffalo above all other game combined."
"Have there been problems here in the Chewore?" I asked, as titillated by the idea of the risk as I was uneasy.
"Hunting is inherently dangerous," Wil said, "and trouble assumes many forms out here.  Just this season another PH, chap named Edwins, had a client shoot his own toes off.  Seems he was hunting buffalo with a new, expensive .458 double.  He lacked practice or experience.  Butchered his shot on the buff.  Edwins and his client followed up, but he—the client—continued to shoot badly until he announced he was out of ammunition.  Edwins had to finish the buffalo."
"It didn't end there or well, I assume."
  "Lucky they weren't both gored.  Back at the truck, the client rested the muzzle of the double on his boot tip apparently to keep it out of the dirt and snapped the trigger to release the tension on the firing pin spring.  A strange and unnecessary move to say the least."
"I can imagine what happened next," I said.  "I've been deer hunting with novices more than once who pulled the trigger on an 'empty' chamber, only to have the gun go off."
"Blew three of the fellow's toes off and bloodied Edwins and the trackers with the exploding debris of gravel, boot leather, and bone.  They had to air-medivac the client out."
"A classic case of more money than brains, it sounds like," I said.
"Over in Dande, a client shot the arm off an apprentice PH last year.  The appy is back now and a fully certified if one armed professional.  One must admire his perseverance if not his good sense."
"And buffalo attacks?" I said.  "You know, 'the most dangerous game.' "
"Each year there are hunters or PHs injured or killed by buffs throughout Africa.  Buffalo have a tremendous capacity to absorb damage and keep going.  A lung or heart shot would drop other game, including lion or elephants, in moments.  But a buff shot like that can run off some distance and hide for quite a time.  They'll be dead at some point, but in the meantime, feeling sick and weak, will go into the thickest stuff they can find and wait.  When the hunters follow up, the animals seem to sense they don't have the strength to escape and, no doubt feeling cornered and out of options, can summon the reserves to mount a terrific, desperate last charge.  They're big and strong enough to kill a man straight away."
"Has it happened here?"
"Last season a colleague, a PH named Owain Lewis, was killed out here by the charge of a wounded buffalo.  A nice fellow, a farmer like me whose land had been seized.  He turned to professional hunting to eke out some sort of living.  Quite a well respected hunter.  Anyway, his client had wounded the animal and it took a few days to get back on it.  Lewis and his apprentice found it in impossibly thick jesse three days later.  It was so dense, the animal charged from only feet away, goring and tossing the PH, who broke his neck in the fall.  It happened in seconds.  No one had a chance to fire.  The apprentice couldn't get a shot off until Owain was clear and then killed the buffalo clean enough.  By then it was all over for the PH, though."
"The widow-maker," I said.
"Indeed.  The most apt name of them all.  Professional hunters came from all over Zimbabwe to attend the funeral.  A tragic but too familiar loss."
"I suppose it goes without saying one must be extraordinarily careful."
"To be sure.  The key is to be certain of your first shot.  No shoot-and-hope.  Then put more lead in him in any manner you can.  If I think a wounded buffalo is escaping, I'll shoot, too.  And I'll be in front for the follow up. It's for everyone's safety, especially the trackers who must search in the lead.  And we certainly don't want an inexperienced client—any client— positioned alone out front with the prospect of a wounded, angry buffalo hidden in the nearest jesse stand. "

Those words would prove portentous as well.
Look for the entire story, Africa Safari Journal, in Bascom's upcoming collection of short fiction entitled Follow Him Up the Mountain, to be published later in 2014.

Saturday, March 15, 2014

The Gray Ghost

by John Bascom (copyright © 2014)
SixThe Gray Ghost (part 1 of 2)

One cannot but be struck by the comedy of the tiny and ill-shaped grysbok bouncing frantically through the yellow grass.  And the warthog seems as if he were assembled from a
discarded collection of unwanted parts, a Frankensteinian experiment on the animal world gone terribly wrong.  The bushbuck, on the other hand, exudes harmonious elegance, while the duiker is a study in diminutive beauty, an artistically rendered miniature of an idealized antelope.  Baboons are the blue-collar, scruffy, rudely barking rabble of the bush while impala are the common proletariat, the working class of the Chewore with their long, homely faces, roughly featured and oddly angled.  But one can never forget, cannot help but being awed at the first glimpse of the majestic wild bull kudu.
If the lion is king of the jungle—I have no doubt it is true—the kudu bull is the crowned prince.  Strikingly tall and magnificently proportioned, his soaring, spiraling horns
are the perfect adornment, a princely coronet upon a regal body.  It is said that when George Washington, general of the Continental Army and first president of the United States, entered a room, a hush fell.  All others paled in comparison even though he behaved humbly.  He was always silently and spontaneously acclaimed by those in his presence a man above men, not so much for his achievements as simply his bearing.  So it is with the kudu bull amongst lesser, amongst all other animals.  It is true enough that the elephant is more massive, the giraffe wondrous, the zebra unique, and the leopard deadly and beautiful and stealthy.  But nothing compares with the kudu.
Perhaps it is his coat, appearing lush, tailored and smooth in satiny-rich, understated silver-gray.  The immediate urge is to reach out and stroke it.  Or the very light gray, almost white, thin, faint and widely spaced stripes running vertically up its flanks, and horizontally along the backbone.  The same contrasting light gray forms a distinct chevron, a coat-of-arms of a knight of the court, on the face below the eyes.  The kudu's head is prominent and noble and pleasingly proportioned.  A mane runs both above and below the long, strong neck, dark and stiffly bristled on top, and feathery light gray beneath.
The bull kudu's legs are long, his body is athletic and sculpted with muscle honed through the rigors of survival in the African bush.  While the Cape buffalo is muscle-bound
and massive and brutish and unafraid, the kudu is built as an animal of action.  His movements are confident and unhurried even though he is capable of remarkable speed and power.  The impala flees in frantic, terrified, escaping leaps, while the kudu runs as does the American working quarter horse, with chest forward and legs driving beneath, taking the thick bush in a purposeful attack, an NFL running back cutting and powering through the opposition to reach his chosen objective.  Like the human athlete or the quarter horse, the kudu runs without fear.  One can never forget that first glimpse of the majestic wild bull kudu.

Kudu are trophies of opportunity, residents of the brushy forests where the advantages are all theirs, unlike on the more open savannahs.  The first time I saw a kudu bull while hunting it was three or four days into our safari.  Our party was hiking to a spring a mile or so back in the bush to look for buffalo tracks.  We had crested a small rise in the mopane-covered hills when we jumped a bull and cow standing in a wide depression some fifty yards ahead.  They glanced at us only momentarily before taking off at a leisurely trot up the next hill, the two of them stopping at the top among the scrub to look back at us.  They were still within a hundred yards.
"What a magnificent kudu," I stammered, still star-struck at the sight.  I wondered why Wil hadn't called for the sticks and motioned me to his side.  He said nothing.
"Should we shoot him?" I finally asked.  We had stood looking for nearly a full minute.  The animals seemed unconcerned but I was certain they would bolt at any instant.
"A bit too young.  He has a few years of breeding ahead of him.  We want something older."
I was stunned.  I never challenged Wil's calls, never had a desire to, but it was as if we had stumbled upon a tall tined, wide, rutting-necked ten point buck in Michigan and someone called it off because he was too small.  "Let's wait for a fourteen-point."
"Their coloring is perfect," I said.  "I wouldn't know they were there had we not seen them moving."
"The gray ghost of the Chewore."
"It's what the locals, the hunting community says.  Their coloring.  The way they move.  Blend in.  One minute they're there, the next they're not.  As much as anything, it's a comment on their mystique, I suppose.  A compliment.  There's something quite different about them."
The kudus finally drifted off into the scrub...to be continued...
  Look for "The Gray Ghost" and other hunting stories in Bascom's upcoming collection, FOLLOW HIM UP THE MOUNTAIN later in 2014.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012


Praise for Caine's Pestilence
from readers and reviewers 

Wyblog US

I could summarize my review in three words: Read. This. Book… Caine's Pestilence is a masterstroke of satirical genius…I couldn't put it down. (Chris Wysocki August 21, 2011 www.wyblog.us) 



One of the most compelling and unusual books I have ever had the pleasure of reading...totally original and both comedic and horrifying at the same time.  From the time I opened the first page, it made me want to read it straight through…if you decide to read only one book this year, it should be Caine’s Pestilence.  (LD Jackson Oct. 2, 2011 www.ldjackson.net 


Free Republic

(H)ighly recommend, but …more scary than Stephen King's "IT" which, to this day, still causes goosebumples when I think of the clown-monster.  I will not even try to offer up a glimpse of the terror and horrible events that are part of the plot, and I do mean PLOT!!  Get it and set aside an evening to read it. Make sure the doors and windows are locked and unplug the phone! (GRRR…Free Republic, Sept. 7, 2011,


By Melinda Le Baron—October 30—Goodreads...very tightly plotted... dialogue is priceless...pacing lickety-split quick...ending so surprising you could have knocked me over...perfect for people who like finishing novels with a smile...by far this book is singular in its execution.


BGabby--January 20--Goodreads...I loved this book! Nancy Pelosi as president? G W Bush imprisoned for war crimes? The hopelessly politically correct doublespeak? I haven't laughed this hard at a political novel since Tricky Dicky and Good As Gold...All I know is that I'm keeping this one to enjoy again.


Amazon.com Reader Reviews 

By Psychonate--Sept 1--awesome book! Amazingly entertaining...down right scary! Should be a requirement for students.  Finished in two days and that's only because I had to sleep and work.

By Dannette—March 26… rides the fence of politics beautifully, with a spot-on sense of timing and humor.  I found myself laughing countless times at the irony 


By "cobweb"—October 9…Spellbinding with an edgy awareness that the ridiculous situation inching Caine to his death is uncannily possible… Caine's observations, inappropriate humor and irreverent satire bind this twisted plot into an intriguing read and a wakeful night… Totally great reading and we want more. 


By Daune Robinson—April 14…can't remember the last time I enjoyed finding a new author this much - well, yes, I can - it was when I read Watchers and fell in love with Dean Koontz! This book was a pleasure to read. I laughed, cried, screamed and could not put it down. Read it! 

Saturday, November 12, 2011

CNBC Comments on Caine's Pestilence


Political Satire Novel Lampoons Nancy Pelosi, Liberals

"One of the most compelling and unusual books ...ever"  Political Realities


GLADWIN, Mich., -- Caine's Pestilence, a novel melding biotech mystery and political satire, has been released by Canniche Cove Publishing. Written by new author John Bascom, the fictional work unfolds in a surreal 2015  where Nancy Pelosi is president and the ultra-liberal wing of the Democratic Party firmly controls America.

The novel is distinctive in that it defies standard classifications of literary genre, containing elements of action-adventure, biotech science fiction, humor, and political parody. Bascom uses actual public figures as characters. In addition to Pelosi, Minnesota Senator Al Franken is the chief justice of the Supreme Court, while Rush Limbaugh is a fugitive beaming bootleg broadcasts into the US from Canada.

John Bascom, author
"I wanted to write something absolutely unique," Bascom says, "something that would give voice to my concerns about the destructiveness of the liberal agenda taking hold in our country, but in a way that avoids rants or preaching and is delivered in an entertaining, engaging way." Bascom's story unfolds from the pen of the simple, hapless central character, John Caine, writing his memoirs from his death-row cell. An obscure administrator at the National Institutes of Health, Caine fortuitously creates a biological agent that, accidentally released into the population, changes the perceptions of ordinary people about the liberal agenda. The Pelosi administration then goes crazy and Caine is persecuted mercilessly in their efforts to stop it.

The author's mission of entertaining and engaging has met with success according to the conservative Wyblog.us, who calls Caine's Pestilence "...a masterstroke of satirical genius" and tells the blog's fans to Read. This. Book. Today! And the blog Political Realities says it's "...one of the most compelling and unusual books I have ever had the pleasure of reading." Individual Amazon reader-reviewers awarded the maximum 5 stars on average overall.

Caine's Pestilence is available in softcover or Kindle at Amazon.com and as a Nook eBook from Barnes & Noble.