Sunday, May 06, 2007

An Accidental Novelist -- Richard S. Wheeler

I met Richard Wheeler once, though I'm sure he doesn't remember. It was at the WWA's annual convention, held that year in Jackson Hole, Wyoming. It was a notable meeting because sitting at the same table with Wheeler was Ed Gorman. I'd never met Ed before in person, either.

As I discovered in reading his entertaining memoir, Wheeler and I have several things in common. Our personalities seem similar. We both came to writing late, and about the same time. We shared the same agent for a time. We both write genre fiction. Our careers have had a few similarities, too, though Wheeler at the end has been more successful than I have in terms of sales and awards.

The memoir itself has a lot to say about what it's like to struggle along as a genre writer. There's a lot about editors and the publishing business that will sound familiar to almost any writer, but what I liked best was Wheeler's stories about the people he's met, his friends and colleagues. I identified with this part of the book so strongly because I know many of the same people. This is the first time I've ever read a book about so many people I've been acquainted with, and it was an interesting experience to see Wheeler's descriptions of them and his thoughts about them.

Among Wheeler's many awards is the Owen Wister Award for Lifetime Achievement, presented by the WWA. As I said, Wheeler and I started publishing at the same time. His career seems like a long one as you read the book, and the Wister Award shows what he's accomplished. So why does that same period of time seem like about a week and a half to me? Can it possibly have been so long?

But I digress. Wheeler hasn't had it easy, but he's had an interesting life, and he tells about it quite well. Even if you haven't read his novels (and you should), you'll find out what it's really like to be a working writer in an overlooked field. It ain't easy, kid.

Check it out.


Anonymous said...

You and Richard Wheeler have two things in common--you're both excellent writers and excellent human beings. I was as taken with Richard's book as you were.
Ed Gorman

Bill Crider said...

It was your recommendation that got me to order the book. And thanks for the kind words.