Those of you who have read Decent Deceit have learned that Oscar, one of the main characters, is an Iraq war veteran with post traumatic stress disease - P.T.S.D - initiated by his experiences in Iraq and Afghanistan.

I just received an e-mail from a friend in Iraq from whom I obtained much of my firsthand information for the novel. Included was a photograph of Santa Claus in his bright red suit, sitting on the roof of a building looking down over a sea of destruction: Collapsed buildings with broken or missing window panes; a block of nothing but rubble directly below. Broken concrete, overturned objects, and other debris added the only tints of color to the otherwise gray, ugly cityscape. I couldn't see Santa's eyes or his expression but his stance left no doubt of his thoughts or questions.

Was any optimism left; was all hope gone? Had the Christian people lost their faith in God to restore their city and their future to a tolerable existence? Could they even remember when there was no fear of being bombed when they did a simple thing like going to a marketplace to purchase food for their family? Have they forgotten when it was safe to attend a church service or even enter an automobile to enjoy a ride through the countryside, or visit one of their ancient buildings that contained artifacts from centuriesĀ earlier? Would they never again have access to beautiful works of art or literature? Would they continue to say goodbye to their children when they left for school without fear of exposing them to possible torture, ridicule, even death because of their belief in God? Would they ever again be able to play in the streets without fear of car bombs exploding? Had all hope of a safer future been completely destroyed?

The photo of the unhappy and discouraged Santa haunts me still. It's a sad thing when even Santa can no longer smile. Like Oscar, in Decent Deceit, he will need faith, family and friends to make life tolerable again.

If you haven't read Decent Deceit, order it today. You'll be happy you did.

Until next time, don't forget to smile and be thankful. Comments or questions are appreciated.