Complementing my daily blog interviews, today’s Author Spotlight, the one hundred and seventh, is of mystery thriller novelist Chester D Campbell.
Mystery and thriller author Chester D. Campbell has been writing professionally in one form or another for sixty-five years. He got his start as a newspaper reporter in 1947 while still in journalism school. He worked for two different dailies sandwiched around a stint as an Air Force intelligence officer in the Korean War, where he picked up lots of ideas for future use. After that he freelanced magazine non-fiction, wrote speeches for a governor, edited a local (Nashville) magazine, worked in advertising and public relations, and wound up his business career as manager of a statewide trade association, which included editing its magazine.
On retirement in 1989, he began a new career as a novelist. The eighth manuscript he wrote became his first published novel. He has five published books in the Greg McKenzie Mystery series and two in the Sid Chance Mystery series. His newest novel is Beware the Jabberwock, the first of a Cold War thriller trilogy available as an ebook.
And now for the author himself.
I grew up in the thirties and early forties, when the field of aviation was just reaching its stride. All I ever wanted to do was fly airplanes. I had no thought of writing as a career until shortly before the end of World War II when I was an Aviation Cadet at Randolph Field in San Antonio, Texas. I hadn’t reached the flight training phase and, with the war winding down, they had no more need for us. A fellow cadet who had spent a year at Yale told me if he had it to do over, he would study journalism. Somehow that resonated with me. It also proved my mother right. She always said if I was going to do anything, it would have to be with my head since I didn’t like to get my hands dirty.
After my discharge in November 1945, I enrolled at the University of Tennessee, where I studied journalism and got my first job with The Knoxville Journal. During that initial year as a cub reporter, I read two books by Horace McCoy that inspired me to try my hand at mystery writing. It was, of course, the story of a reporter helping solve a murder. I sent it to a Philadelphia publisher and got a letter from the editor saying he was sorry but they couldn’t handle any more manuscripts at present.
I’ve received many more rejections since then, but that one threw a kink in my novel writing plans that lasted about twenty years. I tried a Cold War spy story in the sixties that stayed with a New York editor for six months before he gave up trying to sell it to “the committee”. After that I became too entangled in other phases of career development to do much more than think about novel writing until I retired in mid-1989.
Although I hadn’t written any fiction in years, I had been an avid reader of spy stories by the likes of John le Carre, Graham Greene, Len Deighton, Ken Follett, and Robert Ludlum. When I sat down to write novels full-time, the Cold War was ending. I started with a trilogy of Post-Cold War spy plots featuring Burke Hill, a former FBI agent out to prove he did not deserve J. Edgar Hoover’s dismissal as a failure. I had different New York agents for each manuscript who accomplished nothing for me. Spy stories were going out of style. The books remained as stacks of printouts on my office floor or languished in computer files.
After twenty years, I decided the stories were too good to remain covered with dust. I began to revise them and get new edits. At my age, I’m not inclined to follow the time-consuming process of querying agents and undergoing agonizing delays in the publishing process. I got a great cover done by a young designer who specializes in this area and, with the cooperation of my current small press publisher, now have Beware the Jabberwock available in the Kindle Store. It’s a tale of dissident factions of the CIA and KGB plotting to maintain their grip on power by bringing down the heads of the U.S. and Russian governments. Recruited by an old CIA buddy, Burke Hill finds himself the only hope of foiling the plot. It was a fun story to write and got me started on new career that is still going strong.
Bottom line, you’re never too old to start.
Absolutely! Barbara Cartland was writing prolifically in her 90s. You can find more about Chester and his writing via…
The blog interviews will return as normal tomorrow with multi-genre author Roger Hurn – the four hundred and forty-ninth of my blog interviews with novelists, poets, short story authors, biographers, agents, publishers and more. A list of interviewees (blogged and scheduled) can be found here. If you like what you read, please do go and investigate further. And I enjoy hearing from readers of my blog; do either leave a comment on the relevant interview (the interviewees love to hear from you too!) and / or email me.
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Unfortunately, as I post an interview a day (amongst other things) I can’t review books but I have a feature called ‘Short Story Saturdays’ where I review stories of up to 2,500 words. Alternatively if you have a short story or self-contained novel extract / short chapter (ideally up to 1000 words) that you’d like critiqued and don’t mind me reading it / talking about and critiquing it (I send you the transcription afterwards so you can use the comments or ignore them) on my ‘Bailey’s Writing Tips’ podcast, then do email me. They are fortnightly episodes, usually released on Sundays, interweaving the recordings between the red pen sessions with the hints & tips episodes. I am now also looking for flash fiction (<1000 words) for Flash Fiction Fridays and poetry for Post-weekend Poetry.