I was born and raised in Columbus, Ohio, so naturally I have a predisposition to football and other aspects of controlled mayhem. Growing up in an area known as “the bottoms” I belonged to a club called the Daredevils – and we didn’t allow just anyone who wanted to join to become a member. Our initiation required a bit of daredevil spirit as well as youthful recklessness. If you could survive various dares in the local rail freight yard or in the Scioto River you could become a daredevil…needless to say our membership was small.
What did you most like to do when you were a child?
I was fortunate growing up in Columbus because reading and writing were always priorities in our school system regardless of income or what neighborhood you lived in. Our libraries were accessible and we were encouraged to use them – even in the 1950’s. I have always loved history and continue to be a devoted student of it. When I first read HUCKLEBERRY FINN I had to build my own raft to float down the Scioto river, unfortunately I couldn’t go very far since there were too many small dams on the river. The story also involved slaves and because I was very close to my great-grandfather, who was born a slave, I wanted to know more about what life was really like for slaves. ( I dedicated the book about Uncle Sam to my great-grandfather and he can be seen riding the train west) I couldn’t believe that Americans could be so cruel, or that while the debate about human rights was raging in the colonies human beings were legally declared to be no more than property like horses or cows. How did people do these things? The answer is still very complicated and though we may not care for what we find but we must still find a way to love these people for giving us a chance to make this country greater than it was in those times.
When you went to college, were you already pursuing a writing career?
No!!! Later, while a college student, I became restless and wanted to see more of the country so I dropped out of college and headed to California (when I was 10 I used to look up Broad Street in Columbus – old route 40 – and I decided that some day I would follow it to California). Not long afterward I joined the Marines and went to Vietnam, for what I thought would be an adventure. It was more than an adventure. I met boys, many not yet 21, who were forced to be men. They did so without a whimper for the fun and games they missed with their friends or the dark thoughts and problems they would carry for the rest of their lives. I also learned that for all their great sacrifices the men and women I served with only asked to be remembered. Today, when people say they are so upset with the sacrifices of our young people I ask “Can you name just one of them?” to see if they truly remember them.
What motivates you to write?
That gets us to what motivates me to write. I am drawn to write stories about historical events and people that provide an opportunity to think about the times. In UNCLE SAM’S AMERICA the goal was to arouse curiosity and drive readers to study more. I also wanted to reassure the next generation that no matter how dire things may sound someone always steps forward to lead us out of trouble. Our history is full of seemingly insignificant people who together make us who and what we are today. It is an honor to study and write about them.
Do you enjoy researching or do you prefer working totally from your
While I love to research and write about obscure histories I also like to write fiction as well. For instance, one story I’m working on is about ancient Greece. Even a fictional account of events involves knowing something about the real history for that particular time. Studying the views of ancient Greeks about their cats and dogs reveals more about how they also thought about each other. Reading about ancient African tribal customs or in just understanding the importance of the drum in their daily communications makes you wonder how advanced our world would be today had our early exploration been oriented toward expanding our knowledge rather than conquest of land and resources. Knowing more of why hopefully leads to the next question – Why not?!
How did your life change when you got married? and had children? Did it make it easier or harder to find time to write?
I have been fortunate enough to marry a woman I met at early in my adventures. I met my wife Kathryn on my first trip to California and she is still the nicest person I have ever met. We have been married for over 32 years and have two grown children. Kathryn has been a writer and an illustrator for over 25 years. She is blessed with a unique sense of humor which can be seen in her books. UNCLE SAM'S AMERICA was my first published book and our first opportunity to work together.
What are you working on now?
Right now I’m working on several historical biographies and short stories about people, places or events that have quietly influenced the America we know today. Our history is filled with Daredevils!