word craft


Most Read Stories Behind the Stories:
No. 10, Wolf Rider

Wolf RiderOver the next ten weeks of sum­mer, I’ll be re-post­ing the 10 Most-Read Sto­ries Behind the Sto­ries from this blog. I’ve rewrit­ten each essay some­what and includ­ed the most-often-asked ques­tion about the book. 

This book is #10 on the most-read list, my 18th book.

Wolf Rid­er

Some­times things hap­pen to a writer which allows him/her to write a tale using the inci­dent as the basis for a sto­ry. The ori­gin of Wolf Rid­er was just such a true event, and it was quite horrific.

I had just moved into a new apart­ment and installed a new phone (this was before cell phones.) As I recall, I had yet to receive one phone call.

Then the phone rang.

I picked it up. “Hel­lo?”

“I just killed my girl­friend. Can I talk to you about it?”

If you read the open­ing pages of Wolf Rid­er, I close­ly repli­cate that call, what was said dur­ing that call, and what hap­pened right after it.

But—the man had named and described his “girl­friend.”

I imme­di­ate­ly called the police and told them what happened.

“Don’t wor­ry,” I was told. “It’s a full moon, Fri­day night and wel­fare checks just out. For­get it.”

Those lines are in the book. I did­n’t make them up.

The next day I went to my office in the library where I was work­ing and checked a phone book. There was the exact name of the per­son who had been—so I had been told—murdered.

I called. She answered. She was a pro­ba­tion offi­cer, and the descrip­tion of her the “voice” had giv­en me was, she said, quite accurate.

Need­less to say, she was quite con­cerned. I gave her all the infor­ma­tion I had (scant) my name, phone, etc. “Do call me,” I said, “and tell what this is all about.”

I hung up.

Need­less to say, it was all deeply trou­bling. Who was the caller? How did he know about the pro­ba­tion offi­cer? Why had he called me? Was it a coin­ci­dence? What hap­pened after I gave the police such infor­ma­tion as I learned?

A cou­ple of weeks went by. The police nev­er called me back.

I spoke to a reporter friend of mine, a guy who spe­cial­ized in crime report­ing. “I’m going to call that woman again,” I told him, “and get some answers.”

“Don’t,” he advised strong­ly. “The police will think you made up the whole thing as a way to meet the woman.”

I took his advice. I left it all alone.

Still, it trou­bled me greatly.

Six months lat­er, one of my sons said to me, “Dad, I’m sick of you talk­ing about that phone call. Go write a book about it.”

That’s exact­ly what I did. It’s called Wolf Rid­er. After the first few pages it’s all my inven­tion, which I wrote to give myself some closure.

I used to have a stand­ing bet. It went like this: “Pick up Wolf Rid­er and read the first few pages. I bet you can’t stop reading.”

I’ve nev­er lost that bet.


questionMost often asked ques­tion: Did you ever find out any­thing about the caller, the pro­ba­tion offi­cer, or what actu­al­ly happened?

In a word, No.

2 thoughts on “Most Read Stories Behind the Stories: <br>No. 10, <em>Wolf Rider</em>”

  1. You always inspire me, Avi, which is unusu­al for me to say. Your human­i­ty, gen­eros­i­ty, and knowl­edge of craft con­sis­tent­ly leave me feel­ing as if I had enjoyed a feast! Thank you for your gifts. You don’t know me and yet I am the ben­e­fi­cia­ry of your wis­dom. Many thanks!
    Gillian Foster


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