Actually, he’s written a number of books. And published several of them. Back when I was a teenager, my dad this thing where he disappeared into his office after dinner and probably some on weekends as well. Looking back, I don’t know if I knew back then what he was doing.
One day though we learned for reals what it was. He had signed a publishing contract for The Business Writing Handbook. I have a memory that he told us what the advance was. I won’t share that detail here, but it allowed for some improvements in the family financial situation.
From there he published a number of other books on writing, grammar, and punctuation. None of which did as well as that first book, but hell. He wrote and published books.
Somewhere along the way, maybe while I was in college or in the years right after that, he also wrote a few novels. None of them were published, but when he got the manuscripts to their final stages, he asked me to read them and provide feedback.
I have always felt I failed him in that effort. My feedback was always “It was great. I loved it.” Which was true. However, once I started writing, I got that kind of feedback from friends and family and always craved more. That I couldn’t provide it my pops when he asked me for it has been one of those things I wish I could have a do-over on.
He wrote a novel that was a spoof of dime novels. He wrote a story about a young woman getting kidnapped in the area around Silver Lake — where we vacationed frequently. He wrote a couple of others here and there. And none of them were published. It’s a shame. They were good stories. Not likely to be bestsellers, but still worthy efforts.
His novel efforts are a large part of what motivated me to give it a try at some point in my life. There are various moments in my life where I’ve taken the “if he [or they] can do X, why can’t I?” It’s the justification for why I went to law school. I worked on the campus of the private law school I ended up enrolling at and looked around at all the students and said “if they could do it, why can’t I?” In some respects, it’s the same with what my dad showed me when he asked me to read his novels. It was something that could be done. By an average Joe like him. And me.
Fast forward many years. A couple of years ago I asked him if he had kept his manuscripts. “No,” was the simple reply. But there was one he still had.
Back in college, he wrote his Master’s thesis on the Captain Jack and the Modoc Indians. (Google it.) At some point after that he took a couple of different approaches to telling Captain Jack’s story. One was to tell the story through the eyes of Toby Riddle, a Modoc woman who married a white man. As a result, she walked between both worlds and frequently was the messenger between Captain Jack and the American government representatives as relations deteriorated and war between the two broke out.
He kept that manuscript. I encouraged him to publish it just to put it out there.
He has. It’s only available as an e-book for Kindle, but … well, okay, I’m a little biased. First, for the obvious reasons of who the author is. But also because I love history. And Toby Riddle’s Story is a great little peek into a piece of American history and California history that so few know about. It’s these kinds of stories that reveal pieces of our past as a nation that make us what we are today.
So, take a break from your legal thrillers, your adventure stories, your Stephen King novels, and whatever else is on your reading list. Give this little book a try. If you do the Kindle e-book thing, go here. It’s an interesting story about a time and a people forgotten.
And thank you, Pops, for showing me it could be done way back when and supporting my own efforts over the last dozen years.