Second Wind

‘No Place that Far’ brings the past to life


After more than 35 years working in the packaging industry, Bruce Wilson of Silver City is in his second career. At 74 he is writing books.

Growing up in California, serving in the Navy, then putting a business degree to good use, Wilson moved a lot and lived a lot of places across the country. Then when he was thinking about retiring, he and his wife, Mary, visited a friend in Las Cruces who showed them an article in the New York Times article, “Ten Things to Do in Silver City.” They took a detour to Silver City, were able to get eight of the 10 things done in a weekend and started looking into living there.

They moved to the town in 2008 and he went back to school, got a Master of Arts in Interdisciplinary studies, English and history and, even before graduating, was invited to teach.

“So, I ended up getting paid to do something I really wanted to do,” Wilson said.

Writing and reading had always been something he did.

“When I was a kid I read, read, read,” he said. “I remember bookmobiles, I would come out with a stack of books. Reading was always there.”

Wilson’s first novel, “Death in the Black Patch,” came out a couple of years ago and was based on an event from his family history, a turn of the century shootout in a Kentucky general store where two of his relatives died.

For his new book, “No Place that Far,” Wilson took a fictional character from the first book, a bad guy and made him the main protagonist.

“He was a bad guy, just dirty, rotten, mean and nasty and I thought I am going to challenge myself and try to write a book about a bad guy as the hero,” he said.

He looked at mug shots of criminals in 1907 Memphis and found one with no name or copyright, printed it out and pasted it to his wall to look at every day as he wrote. That nameless face became J.D. Hooper.

“So, I wrote this story,” Wilson said. “It’s about him doing bad things for powerful people and enjoying the heck out of what he does. But I had to come up with a redeeming value for this guy. So, while he can do evil things, even threaten people with danger to their families, he would never hurt women or children.”

With his interest in history, Wilson has crafted a story around real events beginning with a mysterious rail yard fire in 1917 Memphis. The fire was real, but he had Hooper be responsible for it. When Hooper ends up in El Paso, he crosses the bridge into Mexico and encounters Pancho Villa for whom he does some of his evil work.

When he goes on the run from El Paso, he ends up in Bisbee, Arizona, where he rescues a young boy from a flood, another real event. The boy’s mother turns out to be the laundress for the local brothels.

In the meanwhile, a railroad detective, who started out investigating the Memphis fire, has been investigating, and tracking Hooper through his journeys.

“This is a story about running away,” Wilson said. “J.D. discovers something about himself along the way. He wonders, ‘Why can’t I always be tough?’”

Wilson also discovered something about himself.

“J.D. Hooper is one of my favorites,” he said. “He has been an interesting character to write. I found it’s fun to think about it ­– writing about violence. Thinking about questions like ‘What does blood smell like?’ and ‘What does it sound like to drop a rock on someone’s head.’ How can I make him really bad but provide something in him that my kids could think ‘okay, whew.’”

Now that this book is done and under his belt, Wilson is already well into his next one. This will also continue in the world of J.D. Hooper and takes up the story of the little boy he saved. Set in 1917, the boy has grown up to be a reporter …

“I find myself getting caught up into what I’m writing to the point where the characters are kind of doing their own thing and I’m just catching up with them,” Wilson said.