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BOOKS & AUTHORS

9 Years Off and On Produces a First Novel

June 16, 1989|DENNIS McLELLAN | Times Staff Writer and

Newport Beach author Jack Williamson calls his novel "But Not Warriors."

It's about the lame, the hard of hearing and the vision-impaired. They have bad backs, fallen arches and "debilitating orthopedic mis-alignments."

They are the men of the 575th Military Police Escort Guard Company--136 "unfit for combat" World War II draftees from the hills and "hollers" of West Virginia and Kentucky.

But that doesn't matter to their commanding officer, a combat-hungry World War I veteran who has never forgiven the Germans for surrendering on the very day that he set foot in France.

Determined not to miss out on World War II, Capt. Cadwallader Aloysius Maxwell decides to put his company of "limited service" troops through a combat-training program. But instead of going overseas, they are assigned to guard a Japanese-American relocation camp in the Arizona desert.

"It's fiction but based on my experiences in the barracks of World War II," said Williamson, 64, who at the age of 18 spent several months on guard duty outside a Japanese relocation camp in Arizona. (Although a weak right eye gave him "limited service" status, Williamson later served as a medic in the Philippines. "I had to memorize an eye chart to get overseas," he says.)

"But Not Warriors" (Lynx Books) is Williamson's first novel.

A former newspaper reporter who worked nearly 10 years for the Oakland Tribune and shot newsreels for a San Francisco TV station, Williamson spent the next 20 years making training, sales and public relations films for major corporations. Since 1980, he has been a free-lance writer for trade magazines.

He started writing "But Not Warriors" nine years ago.

"I'd write some and then I'd put it down for a year and pick it up and say, 'That's not bad,' and write some more," said Williamson, who believes "a new writer really should write from inspiration."

"For any new writer who is not writing professionally, it's foolish for him or her to look at a blank piece of paper and say, 'I have to write for three hours today,' or complete six pages. It's better to write when inspiration strikes you. It will take longer, but at least when you get through, everything you have written will be the result of inspiration."

"But of course," he added with a laugh, "if you sell one (book) and you're going to go into that business, then you need discipline in order to turn out the next one."

Williamson said that although "But Not Warriors" is humorous, it also has tragic elements.

"The Japanese-American relocation camp was a terrible tragedy, and the book treats it as such," he said. "Even though the goings-on outside the wire are humorous, it treats the Japanese very sympathetically."

Williamson said the entire time he was writing his novel, "people were telling me, 'You can't sell a first novel.' . . . I said that doesn't apply to me. I thought it was a good book, a good story."

Indeed, Williamson said the book sold in 12 days and earned him a $25,000 advance--more than double the typical advance for a first novel.

The author, who recently moved to Newport Beach from Riverside, is currently working on three novels at the same time and, he said, he and his publisher are discussing a multiple book contract.

National Writers: Author Jack Rowe will discuss writer's block and other "writing hang-ups" at the meeting of the Southern California chapter of the National Writers Club at 10 a.m. Saturday at the Irvine Marriott, 18000 Von Karman Ave. Cost: $10 members; $12 non-members. Rowe's novels include "Inyo-Sierra Passage," "Brandywine" and "Dominion." For reservations, call Shirl Thomas at (714) 968-5726 by this evening.

Book Signings: Dan Simmons ("Hyperion") and James Blaylock ("The Stone Giant") will sign their new science-fiction and fantasy novels from 1 to 3 p.m. Saturday at Book Carnival, 870 N. Tustin Ave., Orange. . . . George Wright and Mike Madigan will sign copies of "The Twisted Badge," "the untold story of Orange County law enforcement," from noon to 3 p.m. Saturday at Waldenbooks in Mission Viejo Mall. . . . Robert Bloch, author of "Psycho," will sign his new novel, "Lori," from 1 to 3 p.m. June 24 at Book Carnival in Orange.

Future Talk: David Brin, an astrophysicist-turned-science-fiction author, will discuss "The Future Just Keeps on Changing" at the monthly Argonauta meeting at 7:30 a.m. Monday in the Plaza Room of the Ritz-Carlton Hotel in Dana Point. The $20 cost includes breakfast. Reservations must be made by today. Phone (714) 499-6290. Argonauta is a newly formed breakfast club with monthly meetings featuring speakers from a variety of fields.

TV Talk: Television scriptwriter Richard Raskind will discuss writing for television at a meeting of the Orange County chapter of Romances Writers of America Saturday at the Fullerton Public Library, 353 W. Commonwealth Ave. A pre-meeting workshop on writing "bad guys" with author Meryl Sawyer ("Blind Chance") begins at 10:30 a.m. Cost of the pre-meeting workshop is a $3 donation; admission to the meeting at 1 is $3.

Raskind has written for such shows as "Scarecrow and Mrs. King," "Hart to Hart," "Hunter" and "Webster."

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