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Much like my face on Rushmore, this site has worn down with many of its features no longer functioning. If you have questions (or answers), feel free to contact me: @WillTinkhamfictionist (Facebook) or @willtink (Twitter). Thanks!

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What do Merle Haggard, Lee Harvey Oswald and Ken Kesey have in common? More than just some jail time, each had a hand in leading a young man astray. That young fellow—stupid, vain, irresponsible, yet somehow still arrogant as hell—left behind a string of women and failed jobs before planning that one big score that would immortalize the name of Danny Coover.

Well, D.B. Cooper—the airline, then each arm of the media, all misfired on his name.

After trusting only the man he thought to be his father, then a drill sergeant who turned out to be a bigger—and more successful—crook than Danny, the disgraced Army paratrooper takes his failures and frustrations to the sky—only to have misfortune continue in FALLING DOWN UMBRELLA MAN.

About Me

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Will Tinkham has published eight novels: FALLING DOWN UMBRELLA MAN, THE MIRACLES, THE CARY GRANT SANATORIUM AND PLAYHOUSE, THE GREAT AMERICAN SCRAPBOOK, THE ADVENTURES OF HANK FENN, BONUS MAN, NO HAPPIER STATE, and ALICE AND HER GRAND BELL. He lives and writes in Minneapolis, MN. His short fiction has been published on three continents and he long ago attended Bread Loaf on a scholarship. An actor of little renown, his credits do include the Guthrie Theater and Theatre in the Round. @WillTinkhamfictionist on Facebook, @willtink on Twitter

Saturday, May 30, 2020

A short, random history of “race riots”

 I write historical fiction, letting past events dictate the course of my characters' lives. Several books ago, I had a character heading west from Iowa and googled, 'denver 1880'the dropdown choices included 'denver riot'. Turns out a Chinese fellow wasn't welcome in a pool hall, so they hung him from a lamppost. The subsequent “riot” involved the Chinese running for their lives while white folks left Denver's Chinatown in ruins.
Later in the same book, I innocently picked Oklahoma as a stopping point for the same character and googled 'tulsa 1921'. The first page of results revealed story after story about another race riot—this one dubbed a massacre. Here a black teenage fellow rode down a few floors with the white girl operating the elevator. Reaching the lobby the girl screamed. The black kid was arrested and, by the next day, a prosperous black neighborhood—Black Wall Street, they called it—had been burned to the ground. All this before the girl was ever questioned about what might have caused her to cry out. No charges were filed.
In another book, I wanted a character to travel from St. Paul to watch a friend in a circus and googled 'duluth 1920' and was greeted by a photo of three black men lynched for the rape of a white girl—despite the girl's own doctor proclaiming earlier in the day that his examination showed no sign that a rape had ever occurred. This didn't stop the lynching or the authorities across the bay in Superior, WI to seize the opportunity to run all idle blacks out of town and fired all black workers at a separate circus. No one was ever brought to trial for the lynchings despite a group photograph of the perpetrators that went on sale as a postcard.

These are random products of limited research but every town has its dirty secrets they've tried to whitewash from history.
If I have a point here it is that you don't have to look too hard to find racial injustice in towns big and small in this country. Nor do you have to look hard to find us white folks taking advantage of the opportunity—any opportunity—to capitalize. Take a negative and make it positive: git rid of Chinatown, burn Black Wall Street, chase the undesirables out of town. What's happening here in Minneapolis is no surprise. That cop took George Floyd's life because he could. Black man in handcuffs, white man with power. History—both ancient and recent—said he'd get away with it. 

In the murder's aftermath, this gas-masked man in black, armed with umbrella and hammer and casually shattering windows, seems a perfect example of the white opportunist. Start the looting, stoke the fires, after all, the worse the riot looks, the better the police look—even with the murder of an unarmed and handcuffed man caught on video. 

Tuesday, May 5, 2020

On freebies

From time to time I give away Kindle copies of my novels in an attempt to attract readers. My last three giveaways before this year netted 2, 2 and 3 people jumping on my offers. Free books. I could barely give them away. My most successful freebie days had been 21, 73 and a confounding 305 copies of The Adventures of Hank Fenn back in 2016.

I tried Hank this past Sunday for a two-day freebie event. Gave away 8 copies on Sunday, and was surprised when a freelance editor tweeted about it. I recalled her because she'd had good things to say about the same book back in '16. I retweeted the tweet.
Gave away 268 copies on Monday. Perhaps I should rethink Twitter as a marketing tool.

This morning I discovered I'd actually sold three books during/since the giveaway. Plus, someone started reading (36 pages, so far, per the Amazon chart) Hank Fenn on Kindle Unlimited.

For the record, those three purchases quadrupled my sales total for the year. Yes, perhaps I should rethink Twitter.

Wednesday, April 8, 2020

On John Prine

John Prine Dies: Rockers React My introduction to John Prine's music came in junior high listening to Greg Grahek's brother's records. In retrospect, I was drawn to storytellers: Bob Dylan, Neil Young, Robert Hunter's Grateful Dead tunes—but mostly John Prine.

Come high school, any excuse for a John Prine sing-along was a good one. I'd sing “Dear Abby” or “Your Flag Decal...” on my solitary walks home to learn all the words. In college, I was that obnoxious drunk singing along with Prine at that Grand Forks show. And maybe others. My apologies.

A move to the California desert started me writing short stories and lyrics. I bought a guitar for the sole purpose of learning those three magic chords that John Prine used to write all those wonderful songs. I learned the chords but Essential Tremors thwarted any attempt to get through an entire song.

I have a short story called Christmas in Prison, published years ago in some now-defunct on-line journal and written years before that. With my nightly walk home from Liquor Lyle's interrupted by a train blowing through Uptown, I stood singing the Prine song: “It was Christmas in prison and the food was real good / We had turkey and pistols carved out of wood.” As the train passed, I spotted a little girl in a pink snowsuit laying in the snow. As I grew closer I watched her make a snow angel. How's that for having a story handed to ya?

John Prine made his way into my novel The Great American Scrapbook in the form of grief therapy for the book's main character, Brock McCoy. He took to wandering around the house with his guitar, singing John Prine songs that came to mind. The family let this play out, even calling out requests till Brock snapped out of it.

For those of you unfamiliar with my work—and you are many—I enjoy using real-life characters in my novels. My nearly-finished work-in-progress (Falling Down Umbrella Man) has its characters' stumble into the likes of a young Elvis Presley, a younger Merle Haggard, and Ken Kesey on the lam. It occurs to me that much of the book takes place in Kentucky without anyone running into the Prine family. Might just have to change that.

John Prine: Secrets Behind His Classic Songs - Rolling Stone

Last night we all got the news that John Prine had died from complications from the fucking hoax virus. Wait a while eternity? I guess not.

Tuesday, March 31, 2020

This is Worse: COVID-19 vs C-Diff

Last night I got to thinking about a bout with C-Diff (Clostridioides difficile) I endured after contracting the bacterium during back surgery shortly after Thanksgiving of 2012. I tried to compare my singular month-long isolation in the hospital—followed by thirty more days in a rehab center—to our current stay-at-home, social-distancing dilemma. Despite sleepless nights on some sort of ventilator when the C-Diff attacked my lungs or the trip to ICU when it went after my heart, I've concluded that this is worse.

I was alone with my malady back then, happy to have a hospital staff frantically trying to keep me alive. At times, when it got to be too much, I would've been happy to die. (9% fatality rate, I read somewhere when I finally got the strength to read.) I was alone but everyone was fighting with me. Now we're all alone—armed only with soap and sanitizer, and our uneasiness and our fears.

I'm healthy and my job, somehow, deemed essential. I still take my walk to and from it, but I see no one. At work I wear lime-green gloves while checking in people's packages. Later I'll try to direct them to their latest Amazon order on the table outside the round window of my office. (“No, your other left!” I'll yell.)

People pause in the lobby twenty feet from my office door where they'd normally walk right in. They half-smile or shrug, maybe both. I yell something they don't quite hear and there's nervous laughter.

The grocery store is even scarier. People seem afraid to look at one another, as if a smile could either give off or attract the virus. The check-out people are saints and I hope they don't notice frivolities like my KitKats and carmel-corn as they risk their lives ringing up my necessities.

No, this is worse. We're all alone, wandering aimlessly yet dependent on one another not to wander too close. I got it or they do. I'm sure you're a nice person, but back off! And it's not ending any time soon.

I remember my first day back at work in late January of 2013. Too weak yet to walk to work, I stood at the bus stop. I recall the temp was 4 degrees and I felt so damn good to have walked that block—the first thing I'd done on my own in two months. Now, whether it be hugging a friend or simply picking up a package with my bare hands, I hope to feel a similar exhilaration when this is finally over.

Tuesday, January 21, 2020

On Nancy Cary

(photo lifted from her FB page. Sorry)

Sunday evening I got word that my old friend Nancy Cary had passed away from complications during a surgical procedure. I met Nancy in San Jose, I guess in 1983. She was dating my roommate and high school buddy Don Cary. You guessed it, they eventually married.
We all attended DeAnza College. Don studied film, Nancy a poet. We had a great time, then Don went and got accepted to the San Diego State film program, and they left town.
I sent Don a text today offering my condolences and all that. He wrote back about the San Jose Bees minor league baseball games we used to go to. [See Jan. 27, 2011 post concerning Kirby Puckett.] Don and I and Bodie from Tennessee and Tex from Mississippi. Beers you could barely lift for a buck and much heckling of players on both sides. Nancy fit right in. I had forgotten how much so.
I stayed more in touch with Nancy, through facebook, over the years. Her posts showed a deep joy and involvement in the area's writing scene and an organization called So Say We All in San Diego. And now, surely, there is a whole community as stunned and shocked as I am at her passing.
You are already missed, Nancy.

Monday, November 4, 2019


2019 Saint Paul Almanac reading at Eat My Words Bookstore.

Click above link to see my whole head and listen to the entire reading. Enjoy!

Thursday, September 19, 2019

On page 6

Last night I attended a gala for the release of the 2019 Saint Paul Almanac. (You'll find me on page 6, “More Champagne?”, an excerpt from The Miracles.) I checked in, received my free copy and a check. Book in hand (and a cool $50 in pocket), I checked out the view of CHS Field as the party was held in a fancy room above the first-base line. Nice ballpark.

Finding no one I knew (and thus, a little uncomfortable), I noticed a group of couches in a U-shape—a three-seater with two two-seaters facing each other. A couple occupied one of the two-seaters and I sat on the one across from them. Soon two women sat on the three-seater and the one closest to me—a poet—asked me if I was in the book. “Page 6,” I said. She gave me the page number of her poem. It was wonderful, all about the river, atrocities committed on its banks and Native people's disbelief over how intruders could treat it so poorly.

I mentioned how much I liked it and noticed how much trouble she was having reading my piece. “It's too long to read here,” I said, and she went on to explain some contraption she had at home that helped her read. I pictured an “overhead projector” like they used back in high school. She mentioned wanting to write a novel, but they were too long and it would be difficult. I mentioned wishing I could write poetry but it was too short, which made it difficult. I paraphrased Mark Twain apologizing in a letter to a friend about its length: “I would've kept it shorter but I didn't have the time.” She laughed. It was noisy and difficult to have a conversation.

About then a woman asked if the seat next to me was open. It was, and she and her grown daughter—I assume—squeezed in. Three, now, in my two-seater. A third woman joined mother and daughter, sat on the large coffee table that filled all the space in front of the couches and precluded any possible escape on my part.

I was uncomfortable. And once the program began I found those speaking were behind me and I couldn't even turn around to watch. During a lull, the woman crammed next to me asked if I was in the book. “Page 6,” I said. “You?”

Her excitement made me comfortable. She searched for one of four pieces of art she had in the book, finally finding a brightly colored painting of a woman with a green crown. Before she could find the others, her woman with the crown showed up on the big screen. I tapped her shoulder and she went wild.

Yet another woman found her way onto the big couch. I caught her name but she wasn't in the book. She made a hasty exit as the publisher came up to speak. The new speaker mentioned all involved in the publication, then singled out one person who had made a particularly large donation. It was the woman who had run away.

Maybe this is what the Almanac is all about—a poet who listens to her river being abused, an artist who fills her work with color, emotion and love, and a generous benefactor who wanted none of the spotlight. Not quite sure where I fit in, but it's getting more comfortable all the time.

Then the readings began and three women cried as they read their poems—one speaking of her son, Philando, being killed by a cop.