I am a storyteller, always on the hunt for original ways to bring stories to life on the page. Spending over a decade in the printing and prepress business helps me understand the machinations of the printing and publishing process. Two decades leading global marketing for divisions of Fortune 500 companies (supplying products for the printing industry) prepared me to grasp the complexities of standing out in a crowded world of increasing noise.
With the publication of The Last Jewish Gangster, I’ve now written nine books since 2013, four of them ghostwritten. I’ve told stories across a range of genres including biographies, based-on-a-true-story thrillers, historical fiction, fantasy, apocalyptic, adventure/romance, non-fiction business, and others in the works.
West: Journey Across the Plains and Mr. Meeks
In West: Journey Across the Plains, and the companion historical fiction novella Mr. Meeks, I worked to tell the stories in an original way. West is told solely through journal entries, letters, and postings of the Jennings family as they are torn asunder on their way West in 1850. It is sparse, allowing readers to imagine the settings through only simple words on the page.
“Johnathan Jennings—May 17, 1849: We have left too much behind. My heart is in the deepest of sorrows. We are at a loss beyond all reason without our Sarah. A savage fever came upon her yesterday and she slipped into darkness as we readied to depart.” The hope of the story is that the remnants of Jennings family will find each other.
In a lost manuscript, a cub reporter from the San Francisco Daily Examiner interviews Mr. Meeks, paid by an unknown benefactor to have Meeks recount his life as his health deteriorates. The reporter is unimpressed with Meeks at their first meeting. “I already do not hold a high opinion of the nature of men of Mr. William Meeks' character. He appears to be much like many of these rugged mountain men—heavy beard, weathered skin, untamed hair, and forever a rifle or knife at the ready.” Over the course of two months, the reporter’s fondness grows as Meeks’ life wanes with startling revelations along the way.
Here are few of the 5-Star Reviews from Readers Favorite for both novellas:
This is a story that will stay with the reader for some considerable time.
Heartbreaking, touching, original, and descriptive.
This book transports you into a gritty time full of heartache, but also full of hope and wonder.
Truly a remarkable testament. A picture of the times, offering both struggles and joys.
Smacks of authenticity for the mid-nineteenth century from the start. Meeks is a delightfully deep character who is well worth exploring.
A gripping narrative that provides a unique look at the men and women who pioneered the westward expansion.
The following is an excerpt from the work-in-process memoir of my teen years, The Lamb’s Pimp, when my conservative Lutheran parents were unexpectedly anointed with the Holy Spirit and became zealous leaders of a new movement toward God.
It was Saturday, July 11, 1964 in Pasadena, California. I read about a local Ford car dealership holding a promotion to bring people in to test drive their new Fairlanes, Falcons, and Thunderbirds. I convinced a friend to drive me and my brother over there after we finished our chores. I wanted to—no—needed to spend five dollars to wrestle a bear.
It was a 93 degrees, my eyes burning from the thick smog which always seemed to linger during the summer. In two months I’d enter the ninth grade. I weighed 140 pounds. I was full of Jesus and testosterone, and looking to prove myself—to God and to my fragile teen ego. My brother Steve, only fifteen months older than me, stood to my right, like he was my handler. No way would he give up five bucks to do something like this.
His tendency was always to observe and calculate before jumping into anything. My twenty-year-old brother, Danny, left a year before with Hannah Lowe, a missionary, and unknowingly joined her religious cult in Bogota, Colombia—disowning our family.
My 100% Swedish, ultra-conservative father didn’t understand why I wanted to do this. “What’s gotten into you, David?”
Since they started their five-times-a-week prayer meetings in our home, I didn’t have any real role models, so I had to be my own. “I thought it’d be fun.”
I waited in line for over an hour and watched the challengers before me go into the ten-by-ten covered octagon with Charlie, a 350-pound black bear who wore a muzzle and gloves. I observed other guys try different things. The ones who got the farthest were the Baldo Brothers, three crazy well-known locals who terrorized neighborhoods with their motorcycles and mayhem. Whatever they tried to do to the bear, the bear mimicked them—almost playfully. He ended up swatting the first two around the cage.
The last Baldo stepped out of the ring, his tattooed muscles poking out from his wet tank top. He screamed at the bear’s trainer, "That's not fuckin' fair, man. Gimme two more minutes and I'll beat his hairy ass." A guard came over and quietly ushered him away.
The bear didn’t even look in the direction of the Baldos, the trainer already removing his muzzle and handing him two Hostess Twinkies which Charlie swallowed in one gulp.
The loudspeakers squeaked. “Charlie will be taking a fifteen-minute break. Why don’t you all come over to the office for some free hotdogs and cokes, and maybe test drive one of our new Fords? Only nineteen hundred ninety-six dollars, plus tax and license, and you could drive off in a brand-new Falcon. And don’t forget to ask about our friendly financing terms.”
People meandered toward the grill, shielding their eyes from the blazing sun. I eyed Charlie’s trainer as he led him over to a large galvanized tub full of ice in an adjoining cage, where Charlie plopped down. For the remainder of his cool-down, I watched him consume water, apples, and whatever else his trainer gave him.
It took another set of Twinkies to get Charlie out of his tub. Chunks of ice clung to the fur on his ass as he waddled into the octagon where his trainer put his muzzle back on.
“Next up, let’s give a warm welcome to young David Larson,” the announcer said without any enthusiasm.
My stomach knotted and my head pounded. The trainer waved me in. My skinny legs, sticking out of my tan shorts, trembled as I entered the octagon. The trainer closed the chain link gate behind me. The bear stepped toward me. I knew not to swing at him after seeing the results from the previous contestants. Nothing in my life prepared me for what I was about to do.
I circled around him and he pivoted to watch me. I went faster and he reached out to try to paw me, maybe grab me, kind of playful. A few people in the crowd yelled words of encouragement. I ran faster and Charlie spun to track my movements.
Maybe you’ll get dizzy. I caught a twinkle in his eyes. Do you understand what I’m doing?
I stopped and so did Charlie. People around the cage grumbled their disappointment. I looked around at them while I kept an eye on Charlie. Their arms waved, their lips moved, but I couldn’t hear a thing. The trainer took a few steps in but I shooed him off. Charlie raised up on his hind legs, looming over me. We stared at each other for a moment. I took a deep breath and ran into Charlie—and gave him a bear hug.
That's right, a bear hug.
It was the smell that caught me by surprise, a combination of my fear and Charlie’s hairy caged existence. We stood together like that for a few moments until he toppled on top of me. I quickly twisted my body so I was on my stomach when Charlie sat on my back, the chunks of ice grinding into me.
A horn sounded with the announcer saying, "Give him a big hand." Half-hearted claps from amused bystanders signaled my time was up. Pride and shame came over me as the trainer guided Charlie off of me and I made my way out of the cage. I looked back at the beast, the one I hugged.
Steve punched me in the shoulder and shook his head. “That was weird.”
“Yeah. It was, wasn’t it?”
It was something my two older brothers never did. What surprised me most, that hot summer day when I was thirteen, was while I waited to wrestle that bear, and while I was in the cage with him, never once did I pray or think of Jesus.
Since 2013, I’ve run a six-times-a-month Beta WRITERS MeetUp group where authors as far away as Cambodia put a chapter a week through the gauntlet and receive up to six reviews. What makes this so unique is that participants have three days to review submissions, tackling them first as READERS, then when they find something that stops or confuses them, they suggest changes as WRITERS, using Word’s Track Changes and Comments. The three-hour Zoom meetings are full of insights, laughs, and friendship. Champions of great storytelling, these Beta Writers push each other to make their writing more alive. Each chapter of my books goes through this group.
My Personal Life
I live in Escondido, California, thirty minutes north of San Diego, with my love, Chona, and Rintoo, our aging black cat. I play softball, workout at a gym, and go hiking for exercise, visiting the Pacific Ocean, hitting Carlsbad Beach for early morning walks with my honey.
I have two grown daughters, one a fashion designer who lives in New Hampshire with her two teen daughters, the other a graphic designer with a teen daughter and young son of her own. Yep, I’m a grandfather four times over.
Looking forward to hearing from you.