An Evening With Chris Matthews & Chuck Daly

chris matthews charles u daly

Join us for a special conversation between Chris Matthews and Charles U. “Chuck” Daly about Chuck’s memoir Make Peace or Die, a Life of Service, and Nightmares, on Monday, December 21 at 5:00 p.m EST. I’ll be joining them to discuss the father/son collaboration that produced the book.

Chris Matthews & Chuck Daly – “Make Peace or Die”

A special conversation between Chris Matthews and Charles U. “Chuck” Daly about Chuck’s memoir Make Peace or Die a Life of Service, and Nightmares. They are …

Charles U. Daly is the last living member of John F. Kennedy’s West Wing congressional liaison staff. Before that, he led a Marine rifle platoon through some of the most intense combat of the Korean war and was awarded a Silver Star and a Purple Heart. He has helped run several American institutions including, the University of Chicago, Harvard, and the JFK Presidential Library. Chuck’s life is a true story of living up to Kennedy’s challenge to “ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country.”

Make Peace or Die: A life of Service, Leadership, and Nightmares is available through Amazon and Indiebound, or you can ask your local bookstore to order it. An early draft was featured on Jocko Podcast episode 196

Southern Review of Books Interview – Make Peace or Die

Dad and I sat down with Rachael Greene for an interview with the Southern Review of Books.

First of all, it is an honor to have you on the Southern Review of Books, thank you both for speaking with me. Chuck (Sr.) and Charlie (Jr.), you collaborated on this book, drafting it from a collection of Chuck’s notes and recounted memories. When did you start the writing collaboration process? How long did it take to complete the first draft? Did you work in person or remotely?

Chuck: Thank you, Rachael. The book started as a collection of notes typed on 4 x 6 index cards which I started writing the day after President Kennedy was killed. I thought I had lost those cards. My wife Christine found them when we were about half-way through this project. Some of them made it into the book verbatim.

My eldest, Michael suggested Charlie and I write father/son stories of Korea, where he spent some time teaching. That didn’t sound interesting to either of us, but it sparked the idea of a collaboration on my book which I had returned to at that point. I had put together a binder full of notes, but they were just notes, roughly organized into the chapters of my life. I brought them to Charlie and asked him to help me turn them into a book.

Charlie: We started working on the book when I was home for a brief visit while living overseas. When I left, I took a suitcase full of his notes and relevant books on the times he lived in — not the greatest thing to schlep around when you’re backpacking. I expanded those notes with interviews, talking to family, coworkers, and the last living members of his platoon. Eventually I moved home to devote more time to the project and have the long conversations with my father that became the pages you have today.

Chuck, had you ever talked with Charlie, or any of your sons, about your time in the war and public service before this? Was it hard for you to start talking about these things? How frequently would you and Charlie sit down to work on the book?

Chuck: I had been trying not to think about it. I didn’t want to talk to my boys about killing and the reality of war. They knew not to touch my wounded arm. I made comments sometimes. I would weigh-in on current events — I talked about Vietnam and Iraq. But there was no depth to these conversations. I didn’t discuss the memories or the things that were in my heart. I think the war stories in this book will be news to most people who know me, including my own family.

Charlie: He talked about the things that were easy enough to talk about. He had always told my brothers and I that while he was proud of his medals, the things he did to earn them weren’t as simple as legends and war movies make it look.

Our writing schedule depended on the subject and whether or not he was having a good day. He would go on long walks alone to decompress. Sometimes he’d ambush me with stories when we weren’t working, and I had to keep a pen and notebook handy at all times. One of these comments, after dinner one evening, became his description of “the forgotten war.”

You have been at the heart of some truly momentous events in our history. For all that you covered in the memoir, you still had to cut out some things that sound like they could have been entire books on their own, like the Chicago riots and your time in leadership at Harvard. How did you and Charlie determine what made the cut?

Chuck: I don’t have nightmares about Chicago or the White House. Nobody died in the Harvard because of my decisions. As Charlie and I talked about the events of my life, it became clear to both of us that war and coming home from war is what this book is about. That long journey home has led me many incredible places, and we focused on the stories that might be helpful for someone on the same path.

I found myself doing field work in South Africa writing about the AIDS epidemic in my late 70s and early 80s. That story belonged in the book because it was a variation on that theme: making peace in a deeply messed up world.

Charlie: As storytelling goes, it doesn’t get much better than leaving home and finding the return journey more fraught and perilous than expected. It’s an archetypal theme. Odysseus was a traumatized vet, self-medicating with temptresses and lotus petals.


Continue reading… 


Make Peace or Die: A life of Service, Leadership, and Nightmares is available through Amazon and Indiebound, or you can ask your local bookstore to order it. 

An early draft was featured on Jocko Podcast episode 196

7 Books on Writing You Haven’t Read

“You can be cautious or you can be creative, but there’s no such thing as a cautious creative..” -George Lois

I assume you’ve read Bird-by-BirdThe Elements of Style, and Stephen King’s On Writing, (all of which are incredible) so they aren’t on this list.

Here are seven unsung gems that have made me a better writer.

Damn Good Advice (For People with Talent!) by George Lois

Lois was one of the founders of advertising’s creative revolution in the 1960s and has been called “the real Don Draper” a comparison he hates.

Some of his advice is ad-industry and copywriting specific, but much of it applies to artists in any medium:

“If you want to do something sharp and innovative, you have to know what went on before. Museums are custodians of epiphanies, and these epiphanies enter the central nervous system and deep recesses of the mind.”

He then gives the example of one of his own epiphanies that led to an Esquire cover featuring Mohamed Ali posing as St. Sebastian.

Cassavettes on Cassavettes by John Cassavettes and Ray Carney
Director John Cassavettes looks back on his career and creates a rambling, brilliant, and occasionally self-contradictory creative ethos. Cassavettes is the patron saint of anyone who dreams of creative freedom, following your vision unmolested by “suits” and critics.

One passage that stuck with me:

“I’ve never seen an exploding helicopter. I’ve never seen anybody go and blow somebody’s head off. So why should I make films about them? But I have seen people destroy themselves in the smallest way, I’ve seen people withdraw, I’ve seen people hide behind political ideas, behind dope, behind the sexual revolution, behind fascism, behind hypocrisy, and I’ve myself done all these things. So I can understand them. What we are saying is so gentle. It’s gentleness. We have problems, terrible problems, but our problems are human problems.”

The Spooky Art: Thoughts on Writing By Norman Mailer
It’s full of Mailer’s trademark braggadocio and posturing, but if you can stomach that, he has some excellent advice, particularly for young writers.

He suggests treating writing like a 9–to-5 job. Mailer being Mailer, he also recommends a lot of obsolete drugs like seconal and benzedrine (the former to help you come down from the latter) and boasts of his own tolerance and the good ideas he had on said drugs.

Then, occasionally, he knocks you on your ass with stuff like this:

“Characters in novels sometimes radiate more energy, therefore, when we don’t enter their mind. It is one of the techniques a novelist acquires instinctively — don’t go into your protagonist’s thoughts until you have something to say about his or her inner life that is more interesting than the reader’s suppositions.”

Plotting and Writing Suspense Fiction by Patricia Highsmith
Lessons on the mechanics and theory of thriller writing by the author of The Talented Mr. Ripley and The Price of Salt, which was adapted into the movie Carol. One of her most helpful suggestions is to ask of each scene, “what happens?” and “why should we care??

“Writing is a way of organizing experience and life itself.”

A Technique for Producing Ideas by James Webb Young
If you’ve worked in advertising, this one is not underrated or unsung.

No matter who you are, this slim volume (something like 30 pages) will improve your thinking and make it possible to have good ideas on command. He emphasizes the importance of a drawdown period where you step away from the problem to make room for the solution.

Young defines an idea thus:

“An idea is nothing more or less than a new combination of old elements”

Write to Sell by Andy Maslan
A new classic in the world of copywriting, this is where I got the 5-draft method for everything I write from fiction to emails. Put simply, it goes like this:
Draft 1 — Rough as rough can be. Just write it, nobody but you has to see it.
Draft 2 — Check your draft against the outline and intended theme.
Draft 3 — Edit for structural issues and paragraph order (this is where I add links in blog posts.)
Draft 4 — Edit for tone and flow. Read it aloud.
Draft 5 — Print and proofread.

Draft no. 4 by John McFee
Speaking of drafts… This one points out the good news/bad news that the first draft takes about as long to write as all the other drafts combined.

The take-home message of every book on this list is basically: get to work! Or, as McPhee writes:

“It doesn’t matter that something you’ve done before worked out well. Your last piece is never going to write your next one for you.”

This post originally appeared in The Startup.

Subscribe for monthly reading recommendations!

No Description


Friday Roundup, without hope, without despair

Was reminded of some words of wisdom–I first encountered in my English major days–from Austin Kleon quoting Raymond Carver who was quoting Isak Dinesen. Carver and Kleon both put these words on a 3×5 card on the wall, and I’m doing the same.

every day without hope without despair 3x5 Isak Dinesen raymond carter austin kloean

Here’s what I’ve been up to the past 7 days:


What I’m Reading

Devil in a Blue Dress — Walter Mosley


Hard-Boiled, an anthology of American crime fiction


Picasso’s Picasso — David Douglas Duncan. Duncan was a photo-journalist who covered the Korean war around the time my dad was there. He went on to become Picasso’s personal photographer.


What I’m Listening to

Joe Rogan and Cameron Hanes talking about bow hunting. This is a MUST if you have strong opinions about hunting but haven’t spent time outdoors.


Gorgeous” by Taylor Swift


Megamix Depresivo (Depressive Megamix) From Love Lasts 3 Years By Frederic Beigbeder. Contemporary French literature’s great contribution to the heartbreak playlist genre


More Oasis, the Verve, and the brothers Gallagher. I made a playlist.


What I’m Doing

Sharing my handwriting (gasp) and pages from my notebooks.


Looking at a first draft of dad’s book by January, 2018.


Working on my iPhone dependence. I’m following three new rules:

1. I don’t check my phone when I wake up or before bed.

2. I Check in a couple times per day, not continuously. (My Tweets are queued up. I really #amwriting)

3. Notifications are turned off.

SEAL’s Podcast Honors Nanking Journalist

Jocko Wilink is a man uniquely qualified to talk about the full spectrum of violence. From competitive aggression on the jiu jitsu jocko-willink mat–where he holds a black belt–to horror in the streets of Ramadi, Iraq–where he lead a joint task force of SEALs and Marines through some of the toughest fighting in that war.

Now a civilian, he hosts a podcast that often explores the dark side of history.

So when Jocko begins an episode with a disclaimer–that the content will be horrific “even for him”–you know it’s about to get heavy.

His 60th episode reviews Iris Chang’s The Rape of Nanking: The Forgotten Holocaust of World War IIHe opens the show by reading the disclaimer from the book’s preface, followed by his own words of caution. “This episode is not for children,” he says, “this episode is barely even for adults.”

Iris Chang’s 1997 book was the first major work in English documenting the Nanking Massacre, an orgy of killing, mass rape, and torture by Japanese soldiers in the city of Nanking, China that left 300,000 dead as part of a campaign that killed an estimated 20 million civilians across East Asia.

They killed and maimed in every way you could imagine and many you couldn’t. They made games of killing and dismemberment. They killed with swords, fire, bayonets, and acid. They buried people alive, ran them over with tanks, and used living victims for bayonet practice. One Japanese newspaper at the time wrote a “sports” piece about a beheading contest between two young officers–first to 100 wins.  The book contains descriptions that nobody who reads it will ever be able un-read.

nanking-mascre Chang’s project began as a matter of curiosity. As the daughter of Chinese immigrants, she had grown up hearing stories about wartime atrocities. These stories were so graphic she assumed they were just metaphors for the brutality of war, or legends that had been embellished with time.

What she soon found was a glimpse into the abyss.

Her research led her to personal accounts from survivors, the journals of unashamed perpetrators, and gruesome  photographic evidence (DO NOT Google image search this whatever you do.)

The book was an overnight bestseller that launched Chang on an international lecture tour. But she was unprepared for what happened next.


Women who had survived sexual slavery during the war started reaching out to her. They came from all over Asia, and many had never spoken about their experiences. Her work was praised by human rights groups and attacked by Japanese nationalists who denied the massacre–a controversy that’s still going on. At speaking events she was approached by survivors from other conflicts and genocides and by aid workers and veterans. People who had spent time on the dark side, people like Jocko, felt she got it right.

All of this weighed heavy on the young journalist. What started as fatigue from her book tour became anxiety, depression, and eventually, a nervous breakdown. She feared the political enemies of her book, she struggled with her new position as the voice of the atrocity. But most of all, she could not escape the things she had seen and heard in her research. It finally became more than she could bare, and Chang took her own life in 2004 at the age of 36.

In her suicide note she wrote, “I will never be able to escape from myself and my thoughts…”

Jocko chose Chang’s story to talk about the terrible cost of looking straight at evil, the perils of ignoring it, and the importance standing up to it. He relates his own war experiences and identifies with her as someone who chose to stare-down evil for a living.

He ends by stressing the importance of “being the light.” As if to answer what’s the point in studying something so horrific? He argues that to be a source of brightness, one must understand just how dark things can get.

He reads from The Woman Who Could Not Forget, a biography of Iris written by her mother, Dr. Ying Ying ChangIn it she writes of the brightness her daughter left behind:

Iris’ life was short but brilliant, like a splendid rainbow across the sky, one that the goddess she was named after would be proud of… What she left behind is a legacy of a life full of courage and conviction, and life’s work that will continue to illuminate and inspire.

Photo: Washington Post