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"The first novella, Uncle Willy and the Golden Bird, tells the story of a boy trying to survive in the l930s during the Great Depression. When his prosperous family is destroyed by catastrophic illness, alcoholism, and the depression, he is sent to live with an older brother with whom he has nothing in common. This man becomes his legal guardian and employer and plans a life for him as a grocery store clerk. The boy dreams of going to college and becoming a journalist but his dreams are dashed when he wins a scholarship to a school of journalism but has to refuse it because of lack of family support.
Then a fabulous character enters his life, the boy's Uncle Willy, a charming man, part con man, part saint, who is sent to live with the boy and his brother from a Mexican jail where he has been sent for a fantastic attempt at embezzlement that gained national coverage for the effrontery of the crime. With him comes his golden bird, a souvenir of his attempted crime, a beautiful work of art, made of lead and encrusted with a thin layer of gold. And with that bird comes the malignant presence of a Mexican crime boss named El Pelon who believes Uncle Willy is hiding gold from him. The boy becomes a central figure in the conflict between Uncle Willy on one hand and his brother, the grocery store manager, and El Pelon, a Mexican crime lord.
The second novella, The Search for Paul, tells the story of a middle school teacher in Los Angeles who becomes involved in a government search for a sleeper espionage cell imbedded somewhere in Southern California by the former Soviet Union. Established by the Russian during the first Gulf War, it apparently has been transferred to Arab Terrorists, probably for a profit , now that the Cold War has ended. The Department of Homeland Security has become convinced that the Resident Director of this sleeper cell, whom they have named Paul, is somehow connected to a middle school in Los Angeles, a school at which Mike Carlins works. They have lost one agent in the school and they want to draft Carlins to replace him as an inside observer in their search for Paul Carlins after some persuasion and with much reluctance agrees to help the department in its search for a traitor and a spy, living in our midst and planning for our destruction.