Nine Lives and Counting

A Memoir of Adventure, Self-Discovery and Bouncing Back

Non-Fiction - Biography
117 Pages
Reviewed on 08/31/2020
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Author Biography

John currently resides in a small seaside town close to Hastings, England. When he is not writing, he travels the globe in search of new material for his upcoming books. More often than not, his friend, Rachel, joins him. At the time of writing, John has no wife, dog or cat.

    Book Review

Reviewed by Lesley Jones for Readers' Favorite

Born in the middle of World War II in the UK, John P. Culnane realized the harsh reality of the outside world from a young age. He was sent to a brutal boarding school where physical punishment, hunger, and cruelty were a daily occurrence followed by a Naval Training school where the abuse intensified. A few years after leaving school, John's sense of adventure would take him around the world. First to the US where he found himself drafted into the military and later to the conflict in Vietnam as a civilian contractor working on the front line. John's memoir, Nine Lives and Counting, is filled with harrowing tales of survival and extraordinary situations. He has faced corruption, betrayal, and death but he has continued his quest for new challenges. A life filled with no challenges or fear is maybe no life worth living.

In Nine Lives and Counting, John P. Culnane's storytelling ability is wonderful. The narrative flows effortlessly and sparked my interest immediately. His life is full of turmoil, uncertainty, and adventure but he always seems to find the humor in almost every situation. The characters he meets are so lifelike and the dialogue so authentic that it showcases their personality perfectly. I especially loved his Aunt Jo and her sherry drinking and his mother Helen. The women in World War II were strong, independent, and formidable and this is evident through John's childhood. His brutal treatment during the boarding school and Naval Training Center days was extremely disturbing to read but his resolve throughout was admirable. John's considerable mental strength and yearning for adventure struck me most during the Vietnam period of his life where he could have avoided conscription. This was an incredibly gripping and entertaining read and the letters and photographs throughout made it even more so. A very emotional story but also filled with really humorous moments too. I do hope he writes further memoirs on his adventures with Rachel.

Jack Magnus

Nine Lives and Counting: A Memoir of Adventure, Self-Discovery and Bouncing Back is an autobiography written by John P. Culnane. Culnane grew up barely knowing his British Navy dad, who would later judge his son as recalcitrant and unruly, and consign him to a series of sadistic schools beginning with the Visitation Convent in Bridport, Dorset, where canings were routinely administered and the students fed offal while the nuns feasted on the fruits of their orchards and farm-fresh produce. After his time with the nuns, his father decided to send him to the Royal Hospital School in Suffolk, a naval academy designed to straighten out undisciplined and defiant boys. Heady stuff for a ten-year-old, though he did discover an affinity with marksmanship at that institution, one which would serve him in good stead as a young man. When Culnane had the opportunity to move to the United States, he jumped at it. His Uncle Mick lived in Queens, New York, and Culnane was able to experience the sights and sounds of New York City. From there, he traveled west to Los Angeles where he was amazed at the ease with which he was able to obtain a green card, not fully realizing that the condition of registering for the draft would mean he could end up in Vietnam. He did end up in Vietnam, but in a manner that was totally unexpected. Culnane would go on exploring, moving, setting up businesses, and dealing with the aftermath of their failure. He was always game for what could happen next and through it all, he crafted an unusual and most satisfactory life.

John P. Culnane’s Nine Lives and Counting is a well-written and engaging account of a life well-lived and still in the making. I particularly enjoyed seeing how he begins his story with life in England during World War II and recounts the day-to-day lives and sacrifices of Great Britain during the war effort. HIs school stories are horrific and read all too accurately for those of us who were subjected to Catholic Schools in the 1960s and 1970s. And Culnane’s accounts of his time serving in the US Army and adventures in Vietnam as a private contractor are fascinating and provide valuable insights into the history of the conflict and the wartime interactions of soldiers and the Vietnamese. Finally, I loved the accounts of his travel adventures and do hope he considers penning a collection of memoirs to more fully share his experiences on foreign shores. Nine Lives and Counting: A Memoir of Adventure, Self-Discovery and Bouncing Back is highly recommended.

Jon Michael Miller

Nine Lives and Counting (with photos) moves quickly and smoothly through John P. Culnane's life journey, from his difficult birth to the present time. In a foreword to the piece, he explains his purpose and feels--unnecessarily, I think--a need to justify his right as a “nobody” to publish his story. But he is quite correct that each of us has a story, which oftentimes comes out as we sit together sipping sherry (or whatever mind-loosening substance). We can all learn from listening to others’ tales and from sharing our own. Mr. Culnane shares his search for meaning clearly and directly, from his family heritage, his upbringing in war-torn London, his stays in various boarding schools, his eventual moves to New York and LA, his stint in the U.S. Army and another as a civilian in Vietnam, his freelancing in Miami, his bout with cancer, and his finding a traveling companion with whom he travels the world.

I had to laugh when he said that while a youth in England, he could always spot Americans because their voices are loud, and their behavior is brash. I was curious about his having been “disruptive” and a “problem” child, and I wanted him to emerge whole from his molestation by an older boy. I won’t spoil the answer to that concern. Despite his difficulties, John P. Culnane has led a fascinating life, and he is not quite finished, I think—thus the hopeful title Nine Lives and Counting. And he is anything but a nobody. I will end this review with one of his statements that will live with me: “I couldn’t change history; I could only learn from it.”

Edith Wairimu

Nine Lives and Counting chronicles John P. Culnane’s enthralling, extraordinary life. Culnane was born in war-torn England during World War II. Life then was difficult and his childhood fraught with other personal challenges. After the war, his parents sent him to a boarding school in Bridport, Dorset. Throughout his time in the school, deprivation, fear, and physical abuse inflicted by the nuns in charge became the norm. Culnane encountered other challenges and painful experiences in his teenage years. After gaining his independence, he worked for a while but began to crave adventure. His pursuit led him to New York and later, after gaining his green card, he was required to register for the US armed forces draft.

While documenting his years in Vietnam as a civilian contractor, Culnane offers an insider’s look into the real side of war. The events included are emotive, heart-breaking, and intriguing. On returning from Vietnam, his life takes other unexpected turns that contain lessons. He documents his struggle with alcohol and his frightening brush with death after a positive cancer diagnosis among other life-changing events. The memoir contains many hilarious observations, remarks, and events that made it even more engaging for me. Photographs included are useful in showing the people and places described in the work. The last part is dedicated to his fascinating and humorous travel experiences with a friend to South America. A memoir about survival, adventure, and courage, Nine Lives and Counting by John P. Culnane is a fascinating, unique account.

Vincent Dublado

True to his book’s title, Nine Lives and Counting: A Memoir of Adventure, Self-Discovery, and Bouncing Back, John P. Culnane has lived life on the edge, someone who has expended his other lives for a cause greater than his own. He is a man of the world who has traveled and seen dangers in different parts of the world by donning the suits of different vocations. From soldier to entrepreneur, he has encountered and survived adversities that would give James Bond a run for his money. He introduces us to his family and the pervading events of the time while he was growing up, his adventures in the culture of the US Armed Forces, and his stint as a military contractor in Vietnam. Along the way, he has experienced harrowing and life-changing events narrated with a balance of wit, tragedy, idiosyncrasy, and endurance. In retirement, he remains stalwart in facing his personal battles that make him stronger for whatever he doesn’t allow to impede or hurt him.

John P. Culnane’s memoir throbs and flutters with wisdom gained from experience, a life that sailed within the intricacies of angst and a world riddled by beauty and chaos. He found more than just adventure in his travels—he found purpose and reflection. His narrative tone is drawn from the heart. He can sound like a father to a child needing encouragement, a brother to a man in need of advice, and a friend inviting anyone for a life-altering adventure without pretensions. Reading Nine Lives and Counting is to embark on a journey of love, courage, and perseverance.

Cheryl E. Rodriguez

Ever question the meaning of your life? John P. Culnane shares his journey of self-discovery in his memoir, Nine Lives and Counting. John invites you into his life, revealing the good, the bad, and the ugly. He is not famous; he is an ordinary guy who chose to live an extraordinary life. From the moment of birth, strangled by his umbilical cord, John fought for his first breath. John was a victim of abuse and bullying as a child, the “psychological bruises remained long after the physical ones were gone.” He realized at a young age he needed to be strong in mind, body, and spirit. As an adult, John experienced firsthand the trauma and ugliness of war and the life-altering diagnosis of cancer. Yet, none of these negative influences have deterred him from seeking adventure. Yes, John P. Culnane is a survivor, oh, but he is much more. He doesn’t sugar coat life, he tells it like it is with honesty and a bit of witty inspiration. As he tells his story, he leaves a trail of bread crumbs, life lessons filled with hope to overcome whatever life throws at you.

John P. Culnane pens his autobiography in Nine Lives and Counting. With honesty and integrity, Culnane shares the skills and lessons he has learned throughout his tumultuous life. In the Preface, John explains the importance of our personal stories: “When we don’t tell others about our lives, a lot gets lost... telling your story is a powerful thing.” This profound statement is the foundation of his memoir. Every line, every one of his stories, every triumph and disaster he shares rests upon this resounding truth. The autobiography is written to inspire and to enlighten and, although heart-wrenching at times, you don’t hear the whimper of a victim, but the resounding voice of an overcomer. The personal narrative is divided into six parts, beginning with his birth and taking you into his present-day life. The inclusions of photographs help the reader identify with John and visualize each transition of his life. Culnane explores life with each step he takes. From Great Britain to America and Vietnam, and then ultimately traveling the world in his retirement, John seeks adventure. John P. Culnane’s Nine Lives and Counting reminds us that regardless of what life and others throw at us, it is never too late to make the changes needed to improve the quality of our lives.

Kimberlee J Benart

Nine Lives and Counting: A Memoir of Adventure, Self-Discovery and Bouncing Back by John P. Culnane is about a British man who encounters adventures abroad and confronts the challenges in his life. His memoir Is divided into six parts: Great Britain, America, Vietnam, America (again), world travel, and his choice to give up alcohol and lead a healthier lifestyle. Whether witnessing segregation in Georgia or an acquaintance committing murder in Vietnam, qualifying as one of the top 200 pistol shooters in the US or encountering corruption in business in south Florida, alcohol becomes his lifestyle, prostate cancer threatens, and a mother’s illness eventually calls him home. Will retirement, travel, and a healthier lifestyle beckon? A foreword by Professor Duba Leibell and family photographs are included.

In Nine Lives and Counting, John P. Culnane gives us insight into his personal life and a window into our world. From his birth in WWII London to induction in the U.S. Army, from a stint as a contractor in wartime Vietnam to his “boom to bust” employment struggles in the US, Culnane explores the rhythm of his life against the tempo of the times. The narrative is frank, descriptive, and well-paced. The enjoyable travel adventures in later years, though not without incident, help the reader to keep the more turbulent early years in perspective. The overall theme is calmly philosophical. Culnane doesn’t offer his memoir because he’s a person of fame, but because his drive to seek novelty and change took him to places he never thought he would go.