Meet The Author

DICK ELAM has been a reporter, a TV station manager, a sailboat racing skipper, a cruising skipper, a Naval Reservist, an oilfield pilot, a political consultant, a university professor, and acrylic artist. Now this octogenarian author lives in his native Texas where he’s busy writing thrillers. Anne Bonny’s Wake is the first in his “Maggie and Hersh” fiction romance thriller series.

The literary pull became apparent at an early age when Elam served as a proofreader at his hometown Abilene Reporter-News at the age of 14. Multitasking as a sportswriter, he earned his first byline in the daily publication reporting on the city golf tournament champion, Billy Maxwell, who would go on to play on the PGA Tour. In high school, he was editor of the school newspaper and worked weekends for the Reporter-News. Upon graduation, Elam headed to Austin, and for four years worked on the University of Texas student newspaper, the Daily Texan. He was elected editor of the newspaper in 1949 and inducted in the inaugural Daily Texan Hall of Fame in 2013, along with such dignitaries as Walter Cronkite, Ladybird Johnson and Liz Carpenter.

Elam earned his degree from the University of Texas in 1950 and returned to Abilene to work for the Reporter-News. He left the newspaper to work in the oilfield and report oilfield news on a live television show for two years. When he left the oilfield service business, he took a majority ownership and managed KPAR-TV (Abilene-Sweetwater). He then sold his interest in the television station and moved to Austin to coordinate Senator John Tower’s successful re-election campaign.

Elam earned a master’s degree in journalism (1969) from UT and served as assistant professor, teaching political campaign communications and editorial writing. He later earned his Ph.D. in journalism from the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill in 1972. He returned to Austin and the University of Texas as associate dean in the communications school. In 1977, Elam was named chairman of Radio/TV/ Film at UNC-Chapel Hill, where he served until his retirement in 1999 as professor emeritus.

Along the way, Elam partnered with his father, A.R. “Red” Elam, to drill and complete natural gas wells in Coleman County, Texas, and owned half interest with a college roommate, Fred Barbee, as publisher of three Wharton County, Texas, weekly newspapers and a radio station.

Before he started cruising in a 30-footer named Anne Bonny, Elam raced one-design sailboat dinghies, such as the Snipe, Flying Dutchman, Thistle, Tempest, Cal 20 and Flying Scot. Sailing was a family sport. His son, Kelson, was an All-American sailor while at the University of Texas.

Dick Elam currently enjoys his view of tranquil sunsets and gentle currents from his home on Lake Ray Hubbard in Heath, Texas.

Q&A WITH DICK ELAM

What is the background behind using Anne Bonny as the name of the centerpiece vessel in the book?

She was a used 30-foot long, sloop-rigged sailboat that we bought and cruised out of Morehead City/Beaufort, North Carolina. I also raced her from Oriental (NC) and offshore in the Atlantic Ocean.

What was your biggest challenge along the way as you developed the Maggie and Hersh characters and their relationship to each other?

My biggest challenge was to help readers who might be unfamiliar with sailing understand what happens when you sail, but not lose the language a sailor would expect. The love of sailing bonds my heroes. Their appreciation of waterway life draws them closer. Maggie and Hersh see beauty in the muddy waters where “watermen” fish, transport goods, and move people. They enjoy streams that provide quick access to the Atlantic Ocean. Both have been widowed and speak the same sailboat language, although one is a Yankee and the other a Southerner.

Why did you set the book in the 1980s during President Ronald Reagan’s “War on Drugs” years?

I started writing the book in 1980. The impetus came with the purchase of a new (then) Apple II computer, a Letter Perfect document program, and six weeks of summer vacation. I wrote, as I taught, about something I knew. When the words failed to gain interest from colleague and playwright Tad Mosel’s New York agent, I set the manuscript aside. At that time, Colombian drug smugglers appeared often in news accounts. And you couldn’t sail on the North Carolina coast without hearing about drug “bootlegging.” As I was writing the manuscript, it became historical fiction. The United States’ market for drugs grew when the Reagan Administration expanded enforcement in 1982. Mexican drug cartels grew from “detected” to “prevalent.”

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