A Writer by Fate
Unlike many of my fellow authors, I didn’t know I was going to be a writer from the time I first learned what those squiggly lines on the page were all about. Though I enjoyed reading suspense/adventure stories in The Saturday Evening Post and Liberty magazines as a teenager, I never gave a thought to writing anything myself.
My circuitous trek through the literary landscape began with one of those random quirks of destiny. I graduated from high school in 1943 when things were getting pretty ugly in
By the time I got into the Aviation Cadet program, they didn’t need as many pilots or bombardiers or navigators, so they shuffled us from one base to another like pawns on a chessboard. Stationed at Randolph Field outside
After my discharge from the Army, I joined many of my buddies in signing up for college under the GI Bill. My research showed journalism schools were typically junior and senior programs. I enrolled at the
The following year, a full journalism curriculum was added, and the editor invited a few of us to come to work at the newspaper. It was a good source of cheap labor, since we were only allowed to make a minimum amount and stay under the GI Bill. But I got both a formal education and invaluable on-the-job experience. It was during this period, in 1948, that I read Horace McCoy’s They Shoot Horses, Don’t They? and No Pockets in a Shroud. Both involved murders. No Pockets dealt with a newspaper reporter.
While going to school fulltime days and working fulltime nights, I sat at my little portable typewriter in the basement of my fraternity house in spare moments and banged out a murder mystery. It featured a reporter solving a murder case. I’d like to say it was published and I became a big success. But I don’t like to lie. For me, publication didn’t come for another fifty-four years.
The path of my writing career wriggles like a snake. I left The Journal in 1951 to go on active duty with the Air National Guard, winding up in
After that I started Nashville Magazine, a slick paper monthly, which was a bit ahead of its time. After nearly seven profitless years, I moved on to writing advertising copy and another stint at public relations. I wrote a Cold War spy novel in the sixties, which languished with a
The last eighteen years of my business life were spent as a trade association manager, responsible for, among other things, putting out a bimonthly magazine. On approaching retirement, I told everyone I would write novels when I departed the business world. And write I did. Starting in 1990, I turned out a book a year for several years, mostly post-Cold War thrillers. My experience with agents during that period is another story, but suffice it to say nothing sold.
My writing slowed when my wife’s Parkinson’s Disease worsened. She had a bad surgical experience and went into a nursing home. After her death in 1998, I took a
After writing two more for Durban House, Designed to Kill and Deadly Illusions, I switched to Night Shadows Press for the fourth McKenzie book, The Marathon Murders. My first Sid Chance mystery, The Surest Poison, will be published by Night Shadows in April. Both series feature Nashville PIs. The McKenzie books deal with a couple in their sixties, an age group I feel notably qualified to write about.
If I have any claim to fame, it’s that I stand as a shining example of the value of persistence. I had rejections galore and unproductive agents to spare, providing ample opportunity to chuck it all along the way. I never thought of quitting. Since those early days at UT, I’ve considered myself first and foremost a writer, and I expect to continue it until they slide me into the incinerator.
If you’re game for a more lengthy version of my sixty-year odyssey with the written word, you’ll find it under “Reflections on My Writing Life” at http://www.chesterdcampbell.com/Reflections.htm