ROBERT TELL'S STORY
How I Became An Author
I grew up in Brooklyn, New York while the Dodgers were still in town. Ebbets Field was my temple and "the boys of summer" (Jackie Robinson, Duke Snider, Pee Wee Reese, Carl Furillo, Roy Campanella, Gill Hodges, Billy Cox and Don Newcombe) were my heroes.
They taught me how to maintain hope in the face of overwhelming odds and repetitive defeats, and to never give up. It was good training for an aspiring author.
It was a peripatetic childhood. We moved to a new house every few years. My father said it was cheaper than repainting. So I was always the new kid on the block, and in school. It taught me adaptability.
Thankfully, my parents didn't name me "William Tell." With a name like that, the other kids would have tortured me. As it was, they called me "Show and Tell, Kiss and Tell, Do Tell," and other variations of clichés containing the word "Tell." That was tough enough.
I'm a first generation American. My parents were immigrants from the Ukraine and Lithuania (thus, my shared roots with Detective Harry Grouch). Dad was a prize-fighter, electrician, and small business owner (in that order). Mom was a beautician and the forelady in Dad's factory (also in that order).
Reading and books were my passion as far back as I can remember. We didn't have screens to entertain us in those days, other than a squinty and jerky 7-inch black and white TV. Programming ended at midnight with the Stars Spangled Banner.
By seventh grade I was hiding under the blankets and reading by flashlight when I should have been asleep. That's probably why I needed glasses by age 13. In this way, I imbibed such treats as H.G. Wells "War of the Worlds," "Time Machine," and his other famous novels. Jules Verne intrigued me with his "20,000 Leagues Under the Sea," and "Journey to the Center of the Earth." I couldn't get enough of Isaac Asimov, Robert Heinlein, Ray Bradbury, Theodore Sturgeon, Philip Dick, and other great sci-fi writers of that period.
When sci-fi morphed into today's hackneyed genre featuring space cowboys, I graduated to new literary turf and discovered an affinity for English Literature. Chaucer, Shakespeare, Shaw, Keats, Shelly, Wordsworth, and Coleridge (among others) filled my head with beauty and new ideas.
By the way, I still enjoy sci-fi and speculatiive fiction, but I am very selective about which current authors I will read. Connie Willis and Kim Stanley Robinson are among my favorites.
Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and Agatha Christie introduced me to intelligent mysteries. My award winning Harry Grouch Mystery Novels probably owe their genesis to Sherlock, Poirot and Miss Marple.
But could I earn a living with a B.A. in English from Long Island University? In a true act of compassion, my favorite college poetry professor revealed his meager income after ten years of teaching.
"If you really want to do that to your family," he said, "teach college."
But I did want to write stories.
Um, yes, I had to make a living while becoming an author. So, in my time, I have been a salesman for a bridal veil manufacturer, a leather novelty manufacturer, an adding machine company, and a home improvement contractor. I even did some scut work in advertising for awhile. When teaching briefly beckoned, I took on a class of unruly 4th grade boys in a private school. That didn't last long.
Somewhere along the line, I acquired a wonderful wife and three great kids. So now what? A Master's Degree in Hospital Administration from Columbia University provided stable career direction and respectable income. Senior executive positions at hospitals and health agencies in four different States brought adventure, excitement and challenge.
My first big geographic transition was from Brooklyn to Detroit at a time when Brooklyn seemed all used up and the Motor City was still electric. City fortunes reverse from time to time and these days Brooklyn is "in," while the Detroit area is "out." But trust me, Detroit is coming back strong and it will do a Brooklyn style rebirth in the next decade. I predict it. (Disclosure: I now live in the Detroit area -- except for my winters in Florida).
It took me a very long time to develop my creative writing chops. My first poetry and stories were published in the Long Island University literary magazine.
I later published some poetry during my corporate career, but being the CEO of a large teaching hospital left little time or energy for fiction. My writing consisted mostly of reports, memos, and directives. Pretty dull stuff.
But the dream refused to die.
So, I threw off the shackles of the corporate life and started my own business, hoping for more time to write the "great American crime novel." What was I thinking? If anything, I had even less time and creative energy than before. I was having a lot of fun building my own company, but writing got put on the back burner. Again!
Finally, a major health scare forced me to get my priorities straight. Clearly, authorship could no longer be postponed. The business was sold and Harry Grouch was born (along with other award winning fiction, poetry, and a very special memoir).
My first sci-fi novel, "Thirsty Planet," was recently selected by a Chinese publisher for translation and distribution in China. What fun!
"Show and Tell" is finally a published author with a growing fan following. Nine compelling books so far and more to come. Life is good.
Welcome to my website everyone. I hope you enjoy your visit.
Robert (not William) Tell
Eric Hoffer Book Award
Grand Prize finalist