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Book hailed 25 years after writer's death

September 09, 2004|Lisa Cornwell | Associated Press

CINCINNATI — A fantasy tale given to family and friends on a young author's last Christmas 25 years ago has won recognition usually reserved for mainstream books.

Will Allen wrote his final story, filled with magic, heroes, villains and a lot of humor, after being diagnosed with cancer. Two years ago, his brother, Paul, began editing, typing, publishing and marketing the manuscript, despite knowing little at first about the book business.

"I never really thought about publishing 'Swords for Hire' until I began reading it aloud to my daughters and realized just how good it was and how much I wanted other people to enjoy my brother's humor and spirit," said Allen, a marketing consultant from Mariemont, Ohio.

The 168-page book aimed primarily at young readers ages 9 and up has achieved stature that does not often come to self-published or small-press books.

"Swords for Hire" was selected No. 2 on the American Booksellers Assn.'s most recent Book Sense Top 10 Fantasy and Science Fiction Picks selected by independent booksellers nationwide, and it received a Writer's Digest magazine national award. The book also won the fantasy/science fiction category in the 2004 Independent Publisher Book Awards announced in June at BookExpo America in Chicago.

"Rollicking," "hilarious" and "delightful" are adjectives that keep popping up in reviews of the comic adventure tale chronicling the exploits of 16-year-old Sam Hatcher and wisecracking, misfit soldier Rigby Skeet. They struggle to save the rightful king of Parmall from the dungeon where his scheming brother imprisoned him under the evil watch of the Boneman.

The story behind the story is that of an author who packed as much creativity as possible into a life cut short by cancer at age 22.

"My brother always wrote things -- hundreds of songs, stories, poems, even short movies that he produced with 8-millimeter film -- from the time he was in elementary school," said Allen, 49. "He was constantly jotting down ideas in a notebook for his next project."

Growing up in the Dayton, Ohio, suburb of Kettering, Will Allen acted in high school plays and competed on the speech team alongside classmate and friend Nancy Cartwright, the Emmy-winning actress who provides the voice of Bart Simpson on the animated television series "The Simpsons."

Cartwright writes in her foreword to "Swords for Hire": "I have no doubt in my mind that Will would have gone on to be a respected writer for film, television and literature."

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